Manama: Kuwait has deported 78 expatriates for driving without licences, an interior ministry senior official said.
Those deported, a group of Arabs and non-Arabs, were arrested over a period of three weeks from April 21 until May 18, Assistant Undersecretary for Traffic Abdullah Al Muhanna said, local news site Al Aan reported on Saturday.
“We are working within a clear strategy to preserve traffic discipline and limit the number of accidents and violations,” he said. “We want to eliminate the phenomenon of people driving illegally without driving licences and its consequences of chaos, law violations and putting innocent people’s lives at risk,” he said.
In March, Kuwait said it would deport any foreigner caught driving without a valid licence in a toughening of the traffic law
Security sources attributed the decision to the fact that several expatriates did not mind paying the “trivial” fine of KD30 if they were arrested by the police and kept on driving without obtaining the Kuwaiti licence,
Al Muhanna said there were clear instructions to adopt a zero tolerance policy towards anyone breaking the law and to refer anyone caught behind the steering wheel without a proper licence to the deportation office for legal action.
“We hope that the action will deter anyone from breaking the law, especially that such violations are highly dangerous, put people’s lives at risk, and cause traffic disruptions on the roads and at junctions,” he said. “The recklessness of the drivers who have not even reached the required age to apply for a licence has become a matter of grave concern for traffic officers.”
Al Muhanna said that the campaigns to check compliance with traffic regulations would continue to help deal with accident risks on the country’s roads.
Adel Al Hashash, the head of public relations and police media, said that the campaigns aimed to boost people’s awareness about the dangers and risks of driving without the proper licences.
“We worked on conveying the message about the high significance of complying with the traffic rules and regulations,” he said, “The aim was to help secure a safe driving environment and a positive traffic culture. We warned all people about the risks of licenceless driving and we wanted the expatriate community to be fully aware of what would happen to those who break the law in this regard,” he said.
Expatriates should not underestimate the importance of respecting the law and being committed to regulations, he added.
“We do remind expatriates that they will be deported if they are arrested without the licence. It is not a light issue and they should realise that the risks are dramatically high for all,” he said. “The awareness boosting team is communicating with all media, traditional and online, to convey the message. The team is also working on holding events at commercial malls and in places where young people congregate in order to communicate directly with them about risks on the roads and about traffic cultures,” he said.
Kuwait has intensified its campaigns to address deficiencies and abuses on the roads which have gained an unwanted notoriety as chaotic and dangerous in the absence of an adequate driving culture and full compliance with rules and regulations.
The crackdowns included the lack of licences, grave traffic offenses, and the misuse of licences by some of the drivers.
In 2013, Kuwait deported 503 foreigners for committing serious traffic violations that included jumping red lights, reckless driving, using private vehicles to carry passengers illegally, and driving without a proper licence. Five of the deportees were from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
The deportation was part of a campaign launched by the authorities to exert greater control over traffic flow and to improve road safety in the country.
The campaign has evoked both warm support and sharp criticism in the local community and the blogosphere was awash with arguments from all sides.
Those who endorsed the move said that it would help make the roads safer for all and would ensure that foreigners acted within the confines of the law.
However, others argued that it was a measure targeting a vulnerable segment of residents.
A study released in 2009 predicted that traffic congestions and accidents would cost Kuwait KD 27.430 billion ($95 billion) over ten years as the country tries to shrug off a terrible world record.
Despite its small total population of around three million people, Kuwait has been hit by an alarming rate of accidents and injuries.
According to the 2009-2019 Traffic National Strategy, around 200 Kuwaitis are killed and 6,000 are injured annually in traffic accident, giving the northern Arabian Gulf country the world’s top ranking in the number of deaths and injuries resulting from traffic accidents.
More than 25,000 Kuwaitis, mostly relatives of those involved in accidents, are affected every year, the strategy, prepared by an international expert, said.
The money to be spent by Kuwait to deal with accidents will represent around 6 per cent of its annual GDP.