Manama: Traffic authorities in Kuwait said they would remain committed to taking strong action against dangerous offences if the current drive to impound vehicles for some violations is found unconstitutional.

The authorities this month started impounding vehicles for up to months when drivers fail to wear seatbelts, hold cell phones or park on pavements or no-parking zones.

Some lawmakers and lawyers criticised the move, insisted that the penalty for traffic offences should be gradual and threatened to take legal action.

However, the traffic authorities stated that they would not back down in their drive to make Kuwait’s roads safer for everyone and to make irresponsible drivers assume their responsibilities.

“We will naturally respect the decision of the competent authorities if they recognise that the current decision to impound vehicles is illegal or unconstitutional,” traffic sources told Kuwaiti daily Al Rai. “However, we will not hesitate to proceed to issue any resolution or legislation to stop flagrant violations and dangerous offences on our roads, and will not allow any disregard for human lives."

The sources added that the main objective of the decision to impound vehicles is to save the lives of the people and that the interior ministry would embrace any legal or constitutional move to protect people.

“The ministry has been listening to the views expressed by lawmakers and common citizens both supporting and criticising the issue. What really matters is that people become used to respecting laws, particularly that Kuwait roads demand full awareness and also a strict application of the law,” the sources said.

Despite strenuous efforts by the traffic authorities to instil a better driving culture and bring down an infamous world ranking in accident averages, official figures indicate that the task is formidable.

Traffic figures show that 917,447 accidents have occurred since 2012. There were 86,271 accidents in 2012, 89,527 in 2013, 99,047 in 2014, 77,961 in 2015, and 71,582 in 2016. The figure is 23,529 in the first four months of this year.

Accident deaths in 2012 were 454, going down to 445 in 2013, but increasing to 461 in 2014. In 2015, there were 429 deaths while the figure was 153 up to April in 2017.

Jumping red lights, excessive speed and the use of mobiles topped the causes of the accidents that occurred in 2017.

Recklessness and lack of responsible behaviour were also cited among the major causes of road crashes.

According to the National Traffic Strategy, the money spent by Kuwait to deal with accidents represents around 6 per cent of its annual gross domestic product.

More than 25,000 Kuwaitis, mostly relatives of those involved in accidents, are affected every year, the strategy prepared by an international expert, said.