Manama: Kuwaiti authorities fined 45,553 drivers in one week for non-compliance with traffic rules.

Campaigns launched throughout the country’s six governorates have also netted 21 expatriates who will be deported for driving without licences.

The campaigns also led to referring 68 drivers to the traffic court on account of “grave violations” and to impounding 68 vehicles.

“We will continue the campaigns to control traffic on the main and secondary roads to ensure full compliance by the drivers with the laws and regulations to limit violations, protect people’s lives and eliminate all negative phenomena,” a spokesperson for the traffic directorate said, quoted by Kuwaiti site Al Watan on Tuesday.

Kuwait has recently 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 non-possession of licences, grave traffic offenses, and the misuse of licences by some of the drivers.

In March, Kuwaiti authorities said they 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.

In May, 78 expatriates were deported for driving without licences and vowed to be relentless in the campaigns to address long-standing traffic issues.

Those deported, a group of Arabs and non-Arabs, were arrested over a period of three weeks from April 21 until May 18.

“We are working within a clear strategy to preserve traffic discipline and limit the number of accidents and violations,” , Assistant Undersecretary for Traffic Abdullah Al Muhanna 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.

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.”

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 both 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 KD27.430 billion ($95 billion) over 10 years as the country tries to shrug off a terrible world record.

Alarming rate

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.