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Saudi authorities have toughened penalties against traffic offences to reduce road crashes. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Cairo: Despite a drop in the total number of traffic accidents recorded last year in Saudi Arabia, a rise was seen in mishaps resulting from driving on the opposite side of the road, recent figures have shown.

Serious road mishaps were 16,962 in 2022, down 6.8 per cent against the previous year, the Saudi General Authority for Statistics said last week.

However, accidents caused by driving in the opposite direction last year reached 14,000 against 12,000 in 2021. The offence is punishable by up to four years under Saudi traffic law.

Still, a major cause of road crashes last year was the sudden swerve, accounting for nearly 475,000 accidents followed by failure to leave a safe distance from other cars, resulting in some 459,000 mishaps.

Some 4,555 people died due to traffic accidents in Saudi Arabia last year, a 2.1 per cent drop compared to 2021. Some 24,400 people were injured in the 2022 accidents, a 4.2 per cent decrease from the previous year, according to the latest figures.

Saudi authorities have toughened penalties against traffic offences to reduce road crashes.

In August, traffic authorities in the kingdom said fines ranging from SR100 to SR150 would be slapped on motorists who fail to give priority to pedestrians using their designated crossings.

Authorities also warned that using a cellphone at the wheel is an offence punishable by a fine of up to SR900, while driving a vehicle with an unclear or damaged number plate is a traffic infringement punishable by fines of SR1,000 to 2,000.

Car stunts are illegal in Saudi Arabia where the risky practice is punishable for the first-time offender by impounding the vehicle for 15 days and a fine of SR20,000.

On repeat, the offender pays a fine of SR40,000 and is referred to the court where the violator could face imprisonment, while the car is impounded for one month.