Statistics say that Saudi Arabia has one of the highest fatalities in road accidents all over the world. Hundreds of people get killed each year and the sad part is that most of it could have been avoided. I had covered this topic in an earlier post (click here), but with the recent introduction of 'Saher', the so-called automated traffic control system, some updates need to be done.
Probably Saudi Arabia is the last of GCC countries where speed cameras are being installed. In places like the UAE , Bahrain and Qatar, these have been there for quite some time and were quite effective in traffic control. Being fully automated, it is next to impossible for a vehicle which is jumping the red light or overspeeding, to go undetected. In these countries, penalties are extremely severe which explains to a large extent on the relatively more disciplined traffic. For example, Qatar slaps a fine of 6000 Qatari Riyals on those who jump signals. There simply is no escape as everything gets registered in the camera and before you realize what happened, you would have got the sms - all automated. A similar arrangement exists in the UAE.
However, despite all that is being said and written about the Saher system in Saudi Arabia, there are always people who break the rules. Whatever be the extent of automation, they have something more powerful to save them, called 'Wasta' (i.e., influence). Saudi Arabia is probably one of the few countries in the world where, if you have the right connections or are from the right tribe, can actually bargain with the police for reduction of your traffic fines - believe it or not, this is a routine thing which happens each day in the kingdom's police stations! The sooner we get rid of this practice, the safer the kingdom's roads would be from these morons.
No sooner was the Saher system introduced than came the spate of "tricks" in the internet on how to cheat the system. One website boasted of a "simple trick" on cheating the Saher system by tying a small piece of bare copper wire in the bottom of the car and letting the other end touch the ground. The website claimed that it was impossible for the speed cameras to detect overspeeding cars with this arrangement. What a stupid claim. Smart cameras these days work on the principle of movement of objects and not whether the object is "grounded" or not. I would advise drivers not to be misled by such false claims. The safest and surest way is to drive within speed limits. This way, you would not be endangering yourself as well as others on the road.
Certain precautions always need to be taken. Never take out your car without a valid driving license as well as car insurance. Always keep important documents with you safely (like original istamara, iqama, etc.) and do keep one set of photocopies of these at home. Please refer to my earlier post (click here) for refreshing yourself about these.
I would also advise readers to immediately register themselves with the traffic police. The procedure is simple. Just send an sms to 888993 (STC), 623333 (Mobily) or 709445 (Zain). The format for sending the sms is as follows: Star followed by Iqama number followed by Star followed by the Hijri year of expiry of your istemarah. For example, let's say the iqama number is 9876543210 and your istemara expires in the Hijri year 1434. You must send your sms in the format *9876543210*1434 to one of the three numbers mentioned above. Note that you will be charged SR 2.50 for this sms. You should get a confirmatory sms from the traffic police within 24 hours. After this, you will be automatically notified by sms whenever there is a traffic violation registered against your name. Please note that registering yourself is extremely important, because if you do not pay the fine within one month of the offence, the fines would go up exponentially reaching its maximum value (sometimes more than double the amount). Claiming that you did not know that a ticket was issued to you, would not protect you from paying the amount, please register yourself right away if you have not already done so.