What You Need To Know About Lebanon’s New Traffic Law

We’ve been hearing about a new traffic law that would go into play on April 1st but little has taken place in the way of educating people about it. Yesterday, LBCI’s Kalam Ennas did an entire episode for that purpose. Here’s a summary of what you need to know when it comes to the new law at hand.

New Driver’s License:


Those ugly oversized laminated pieces of paper that we have are to be replaced with a more advanced driver’s license form with a smaller size and an electronic component. Of course, this won’t start as soon as the law is set in place because they haven’t agreed on the company to handle this (biggest wasta is yet up for grabs), and you will be forced to pay in order to replace your driving license which is also something you are forced to do.

The license comes with 12 points that will be deducted according to the traffic violations you do. Deductions can range from 1 point to up to 6 point per violation (violations detailed later). When you run out of points, your driver’s license will be revoked for 6 months. If this occurs more than once in a period of 3 years, the license will be revoked for 1 year and in both cases you will be forced to undergo new driving lessons.

Licenses have to be renewed every 10 years now instead of when you reach the age of 50.

Driving Lessons:

How many of you here were taught by your parents or a friend how to drive? Well, forget about that. When the new law is set in motion, the only way you’ll be able to take the driver’s license examination is by having a paper from a credible driving teaching institute stating that you’ve taken the required driving courses.

This sounds like a good thing in principle, after all many of the people teaching us how to drive are not exactly exemplary drivers. However, the government states that “credible institutions” will be assigned through rigorous standards. How rigorous will the standards be in front of those people’s connections?

New Car Plates:


I always thought the Lebanese car plates, a rip-off of the European Union’s, were not bad at all. Either way, those license plates are also about to change and will also cost you more money.  They will also have a built in electronic device to keep the record of your car as well as to enable easier tracking of your violations.

Any alterations to the car plate, be it to prevent a correct reading or to alter numbers, incurs from 3 months to 3 years in jail as well as a 2 million to 20 million LBP fine.

The Fines:

Under the new law, driving violations are divided into 5 main categories with increasing fines as well as repercussions. There’s also a subset for fines incurred by pedestrians. The value of the fine will be dependent on the time it takes for you to pay it. You are given a delay of 15 days to pay the initial sum, then it is increased for the next 15 days of the month before being increased later on and referred to a traffic judge for further management.

A pedestrian who doesn’t respect the pedestrian passage sign or doesn’t use the pedestrian bridge to cross a road can be fined between 20,000LBP to up to 100,000LBP if that person doesn’t pay.

Category 1 violations include not wearing a helmet for bicycles as well as not using side mirrors. Fines can range from 50,000LBP to 150,000LBP with 1 point deducted from your driving license.

Category 2 violations include using dark tainted windows (fumé), not having a car-seat for children under the age of 5, seating a child under the age of 10 in the front seat (all those childhood dreams are ruined), transporting a child under the age of 10 on a motorcycle, etc. The fines will range from 100,000LBP to 300,000LBP with a 2 points deduction.

Category 3 violations include not using a seatbelt, a helmet on a motorcycle and mobile phone use while driving. Fines will range from 200,000LBP to 450,000LBP with a 3 points deduction.

Category 4 violations include running a red light and not giving pedestrians the right of passage. Fines will range from 350,000LBP to 700,000LBP with a 4 points deduction.

Category 5 violations include doing dangerous maneuvers (betweens come to mind), running from the site of an accident, not having insurance, driving on one wheel or standing while driving (for motorcycles obviously), as well as using radar detection methods. Fines will range from 1million to 3million LBP with 6 months deduction as well as the possibility of up to 2 years jail time.

Driving under the influence of a substance or exceeding the speed limit will be violations with varying categories depending on the type of substance, its level in the blood as well as the speed you were driving with.

Law Won’t Be Applied To All, Obviously:

In typical Lebanese ways, there will always be people above this law in question. When one of the guests was asked by Marcel Ghanem if politicians, politically-backed people and those of influence would be under the same regulations, the guest shrugged it off.

“This needs a political decision,” he said. Because, clearly, the whole rhetoric of “protecting the Lebanese citizen with 21st century regulations” doesn’t apply to the convoys threatening our lives with their barbaric driving, to those who have no problem running you over knowing they don’t face repercussions and driving recklessly just because they can.

Why This Is Nonsensical:

If you look at the law in absolute value, it’s wonderful and a joy to have in any country. I’m all for 21st century level regulations to protect people anywhere.

The problem here is that we are importing a 21st century law from European countries to a country whose infrastructure is still firmly stuck in year 1954. Has the government seen the highways? Have they seen all the ignored potholes? Have they seen exactly how few pedestrian bridges we have? Have they seen that there are no bike lanes, that there’s absolutely NOTHING when it comes to our roads, to our cars, to our entire regulations that actually allow Lebanon to aspire to become a European-level country when it comes to driving?

The highways are not lit the moment you leave Jounieh. The infrastructure, horrible as it is, becomes even worse when you leave Keserwen going North. Aspiring to be “European” is more than having a fancy looking plastic license.

They say they want to protect people by having this new law, and it’s all nice and fluffy to hear. But what’s the point when the very reason people are dying isn’t just that driving in Lebanon is hellish but where we drive, the system employed to regulate our driving, those in charge of making sure our cars are up to par, etc…

Moreover, the organization who will apply this law, our security forces, is one whose track record, despite an effort over the past couple of years to fix its image, shows that the Lebanese citizen cannot hold it accountable.

How many corrupt policemen roam our streets? How many policemen are more than willing to shrug off their work just because they don’t feel like it, as has recent years proven to all of us including me (link)? How long can we even expect those policemen to actually try and apply the law before they get bored or isn’t the smoking ban example enough? How many corrupt policemen won’t be held accountable for exerting power over us illegally just because they can and because we cannot stand up to them?

In Lebanon today, raising fines will be nothing more than another source of revenue to a government whose entire purpose of existence is to take and take, but never ever give back. Where will the money go? Who knows.

The Lebanese state follows this basic mode of action: you’ll pay us, we’ll make sure you do, but we won’t offer anything in return. And you will be happy doing it, no questions asked. Smile and wave, everyone.


How Annoying Are The Convoys of Lebanese Politicians?

I was going back home to Batroun on Friday, stuck in typical traffic overload in Jounieh, when a GMC Yukon suddenly appears behind me, flashing my eyes out for me to give him the left lane.

It was late at night. The right lane was all blocked with cars. It was beyond obvious I couldn’t change lanes except if I wanted to cause some interesting car accident for news services to report the following day. And still he flashed his headlights on and off at me.

Soon enough, when the right lane barely managed to clear, the GMC car bypassed me with another similar car immediately behind it. Up to that point, I had thought it was just one of your regular Lebanese douchebag drivers who think they’re in more hurry than everyone else. However, both GMC cars were exactly the same color and make. They were without license plates and both of them were acting as if the highway belonged to their mother.

A few minutes later, I saw similar headlights beaming at my rear-view mirror. I manage to cede lanes. And behold: two similar GMC cars, without license plates, same color and make. It was another of case of Lebanese politician highway-titis.

Those 4 cars managed to hijack the highway for my entire trip back home. They try to block you from passing them if you tried. And that wasn’t the first time nor was it the last time in recent days when I ran into such convoys.

A few months prior, 4 similar cars created some sort of a cross on the highway, occupying all three lanes, effectively blocking the entire traffic behind them: 2 cars in the central lane and one on each side. I had no idea what they were so I tried to go past them. They almost rammed by car into the separator. It was my one and only warning.

Yesterday, as I took a cab to the Beiruti neighborhood of Hamra, we encountered a fancy car with a “parliament” license plate. That vehicle didn’t care we had right of passage. It almost slammed into us as it tried to overtake us. Douchy Lebanese driving, perhaps. But at least they had a license plate this time.

So the question is: how annoying are the convoys of Lebanese politicians? Very.

Perhaps the extra security measures are warranted. But how can I explain the lack of license plates, for instance? What’s to say those four cars are for some major politician from the North and not for some criminal who knows his way among high-end people? And how is a politician allowed to break the law just because he is whoever he is, effectively making the lives of other Lebanese a worse driving hell because no one dares to double cross those tainted cars that rule the road when they pass?

Our politicians are the primary douches of driving. The mark of the sophistication of a country’s ruling class starts with the way they drive. Let’s just say our politicians drive as if the highway is their jungle.

And you know what’s worse? We’re paying for that.

Lebanon’s New Driving Law

Behold! Lebanon has a new driving law – and it stands at a whopping 197 pages! (check it here). Who knew our driving regulations were that developed?

I personally didn’t bother reading it because 1) I have no idea how it differs from the previous version and 2) no one will abide by it – not even our security forces who are supposed to enforce it. But I’ve linked it just because some of you are short on fun things to do.

When it comes to driving in this country, what’s on paper has nothing to do with what’s actually on our roads. When will our politicians realize that their attempts at regulating that are futile at best?

Driving in Lebanon will forever be as follows:

  • – You will use your left hand as indicator at all times. If you have a passenger with you in the car, his right hand will serve as your right indicator. This is non-disputable.
  • – There are no lanes. If the axis of your car isn’t alined with those dashed lines, you’re not doing it right.
  • – There are no maximum speed limits. You just keep going and going and going as long as traffic permits. If by some random chance you stumble on someone going at the speed limit, you will use your high beams to temporarily blind them.
  • – There are no minimum speed limits. You are allowed to text and whatsapp and tweet and update your Facebook status as you drive slower than a turtle on the left lane. No one is allowed to be annoyed by this.
  • – Red lights are for decorative purposes only. If you see someone waiting for it to go green, you will honk their ears off. It’s only appropriate – your time is golden and they’re wasting it.
  • – That pedestrian light is simply there to entertain you with its constant glowing. Green means go and red means go. Pedestrian gets squashed? Who cares.
  • – The pedestrian light is also there to entertain pedestrians. Whether it’s red or light holds no bearing on whether they should cross or not. The rule is as follows: look left. Look right. Read, set, go!
  • – Nothing comes between you and your favorite snack place. If it means triple parking in the middle of the road then so be it. You will park wherever you please, whenever you please. Unless there’s a politician passing by. Or the entire street is taken by valet parking. If someone dares to take your parking spot, bloodshed will be permitted. Refer to your favorite local militia for assistance.
  • – Your car being unsuitable for driving is no problem whatsoever. A renault 12 without doors, without a roof, without headlights and with an engine that almost dies every few minutes is the standard. If your car is better than that, it’ll pass.
  • – Think of road signs as year-long Christmas decorations. Some of them are ugly. Others are more creative. But they are all useless. Example: A one way street sign means this particular street is always two-ways. Always. The imbecile who put it there was not thinking straight.
  • – If by some random chance some policeman decides to hand you a $50 ticket, you will grab your $1000-worth smartphone and call your favorite politician or that policeman’s superior then hand the phone over. Once the policeman cowers away in terror and rips your ticket in tiny little pieces, you will leave the scene of the crime with your dignity intact.

And that’s how you do it. That new law can shove it.

David Letterman on Driving in Beirut

Don’t mind his guest, Justin Bieber.

“If you can drive in New York City, it’s like driving in Beirut. You’ll be just fine.”

And of course you have the torrential Lebanese commentators who are proud of driving like baboons in Lebanon.


Kunhadi’s New Year’s Eve Ads

For those who like to party hard on NYE and then drive back home, Lebanon’s NGO Kunhadi has an ad right for you – and it is simply great.

The campaign has two components: a video and a poster, both of which are making the viral rounds because of their very sincere message and the simplicity with which they were made.

The posters:

Kunhadi - NYE Poster

For non-Lebanese readers, the ad says: your parents are staying up on New Year’s Eve for you to come back. Don’t drink and drive.

The YouTube video to accompany this poster is:

You have to give it to Kunhadi. Their ads are always poignant and emotional. I also remember their Mother’s Day ad was brilliant as well.

And on another note, is it just me or is the Lebanese marketing scene becoming way more creative than it used to be? First there was the Lebanese Brew ad, then there was the Nadine Labaki Johnnie Walker one, followed by Fransabank and then MAD Beirut. 

But no matter… hopefully the message in this video comes across. And what’s more important is for those who are going to parties to be aware not to get into cars with drunk stubborn friends who refuse to take a cab.