Manama: The number of annual accidents in Saudi Arabia has exceeded 300,000, the head of a safety forum panel has said.

“As a result of the high accident rate, more than 30 per cent of the hospital beds are taken by victims of traffic accidents,” Abdullah Al Rubaish said. “The Saudi state is losing up to 30 billion riyals (Dh29.36 billion) every year as a result of the accidents. This is a heavy toll on the budget and all the relevant authorities and parties should work together to address this situation,” Al Rubaish, the president of the University of Dammam in the Eastern Province, said ahead of the forum on traffic safety.

Participants will address national partnerships and social responsibilities in traffic safety.

Organisers said that 43 speakers from the Saudi kingdom and abroad would present papers.

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest traffic accident rates in the Arab world and the authorities have often launched campaigns to reduce the alarming figures and restore order on roads and highways.

Traffic authorities have introduced Al Saher system, particularly at junctions and on highways, to check chaotic driving and monitor violations that include mainly jumping red lights and speeding. Under the system used mainly in large cities, drivers are immediately fined for breaking regulations, with penalties increasing in case the fines are not paid within a specific period of time.

The system came under heavy criticism, mainly in social media, by frustrated drivers caught by the cameras amid a wide range of endeavours to beat it, mainly by covering the licence plates.

However, attempts to cheat the “unfair” system were earlier this month rejected by the country’s Grand Mufti who insisted that it had to be fully respected.

“Cheating is not permitted in Islam and drivers have to avoid it,” Shaikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah Al Shaikh said. “The system was set up to regulate traffic, help people and check reckless driving. It is not the nemesis of drivers and it exists to help and make life easier, not to hinder people or worsen their conditions. We see that it is positive, especially as it has imposed a speed limit,” he said.

People should not be negative towards systems or concepts set up to help them regulate their lives, he said.

“Al Saher has been a great deterrent against speeding and breaking traffic rules. It has helped maintain respect on the road. Abiding by the law and cooperating with others are highly required from all drivers,” he said.