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:

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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:

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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.

 

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Beirut’s Valet Parking Saga: 3enab, Gemmayze

In February 2012, the story about how a Zaatar w Zeit valet parking hassled and then hit someone who was trying to park in front of ZwZ in the early AM hours made the rounds. It sparked outrage (which naturally eventually died away) and even made it to the news. You can read all about it here.

The time of the following story is a few months later, on December 29th 2012, when a friend of mine named Jad Rahme tried to park in front of 3enab in Gemmayze and was hassled by the valet parking person and then by the restaurant’s manager. His story is currently gaining attention on Facebook (link) and I figured I’d help with sharing it as well:

Yesterday night at 0:45AM we parked in front of the restaurant Enab Beirut in Mar Mikhael. The valets come to us and tell us that we can’t park here because they keep this place empty for the restaurant. That’s the second time I face the same issue in front of the same restaurant and the first time I called the manager who apologized and told the valet to let me park. So that’s what I did yesterday but it seems like this time the manager took it as a personal issue against the restaurant. 

The manager made it clear that I can legally park here but that he don’t want me to park here because he wants to keep the place empty in front of the restaurant. To make it short, after hearing lovely words from the manager like “Akalna khara haydik el marra” and after he shouted “Iza 3ambtethaddene soff hon w fell” we left because we suspected that this will lead to the valet scratching the car or doing any similar vandal act.
I don’t know how many clients they will lose if we park in front of their restaurant at 1 in the morning but what’s sure is that they lost me as a future customer because I was planning to try this restaurant after hearing some good stuff about it in a family lunch few months ago.

To all the older generation who keeps on telling us “We count on the younger Lebanese generation to make this country a better place”, what do you expect from us if we can’t even park on a public parking spot? If we can’t park in a public spot that is meant to be for anyone how do you expect us to solve bigger problems like infrastructure and electricity?

With the hope that one day Lebanon will be run by a state and a government rather than valets and NGOs.

3enab is a restaurant that has been mentioned on my blog before to point out its severe breach of the smoking ban, despite sporting a sticker on its main door advertising a non-smoking environment. You can check the pictures here.

Despite reporting the place, the authorities didn’t even bother which is proof enough – at least to me – that our so called tourism police is in with our restaurants to violate the smoking ban. How many restaurants actually respected the no-smoking law on New Year’s Eve? Almost none.

Regarding the issue at hand, I personally always try to find a place to park without resorting to Valet Parking. But anyone would tell you that trying to park anywhere in Achrafieh on a Saturday (or any other day for that matter) is a near impossible task. I know it shouldn’t be this way but what can you do?

If, by some stroke of bad luck, I end up having to park somewhere in front of a shop, the least that I should theoretically expect is not to be bad-mouthed or hassled or even beaten. But Lebanon is all except theoretical. The police which couldn’t care less about the smoking ban won’t care about an issue that’s been going on for far longer. The authorities which have no problem eating away your rights whenever they feel like it won’t be bothered by some valet parking employee hassling you.

Sometimes things are just the way they are and you can’t really hope to change any of them. With each passing day, this is becoming my realization towards my country. I may love it to pieces but how can I expect to make those needed massive changes when a parking spot has become a commodity, when demanding for a law to be applied is met with apathy, where regulatory laws are always met with ridicule and where those who should look after you only care about looking after themselves?

This is 3enab’s Facebook page (here) if you feel like complaining.

 

Two Black Cadillacs (Single Review) – Carrie Underwood

 

Carrie Underwood’s new single, off her platinum selling album Blown Away and as a follow up to one of 2012’s biggest country hits Blown Away, is Two Black Cadillacs, a song which sets an ominous tone the moment the first note strikes.

Two black Cadillacs driving in a slow parade. Headlights shining bright in the middle of the day. One’s for his wife, the other for the woman who loved him at night, Underwood sings as a dramatic melody plays in the background. She immediately throws us into the setting of a funeral where a preacher man is saying the man being buried was a good man and his brother says he was a good friend.

But the two women in the black veils have a secret to hide. The story could very well serve to make a movie drama and Underwood delivers it effortlessly in a few minutes.

Two months ago his wife found the number on his phone, turns out he’d been lying to both of them for far too long. They decided then he’d never get away with doing this to them, Underwood lets the plot thicken. The women, taking turns in lying a rose down on the coffin and throwing dirt into the deep ground, also have a secret to hide. So they share a crimson smile and leave their secret with the man they killed, at the grave, to die with them.

Two Black Cadillacs is a hauntingly dark song by Underwood that serves as a one-two punch by the country star as she delivers her album’s most critically acclaimed tracks as back to back singles. The darkness with which her tone delivers this song would make you think she’s lived these events herself but it’s only telling of the caliber that Underwood has turned into as a performer. As she sings “bye bye” to signal the women biding farewell to the man who betrayed them both, you can feel her voice pierce through.

Two Black Cadillacs is a song where the musicians playing couldn’t stop after it was done so they kept playing and playing. Part of them jamming is found on the album track and will probably be cut with the radio edit. The song goes fifty shades deep and is Underwood’s darkest and most thought-provoking single release to date. From the haunting thumping melody that is reminiscent of a funeral march to the rich and multi-layered storytelling lyrics, Carrie Underwood delivers. Releasing a “softer” song may have been a safer bet. But Underwood is here to let her detractors know that Blown Away was just a storm warning. Bye bye, bye bye. 

A.

Fast Five – Movie Review

Fast Five is the latest installment in the Fast and Furious movie franchise. It stars regulars of the past four movies: Vin Diezel as Dom, Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner as well as introducing Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs, a DSS agent, specialized in finding wanted criminals.

Former FBI agent Brian O’Conner, along with Mia, Dom’s sister, help Dom escape a 25 year prison sentence while being taken to jail on a prison bus. They split up and agree to meet in Rio De Janeiro. However, Mia and Brian run low on cash and agree on doing a job for their friend. The job turns out much complicated than expected, however. The train on which the cars are found are seized property by DEA agents. And among the three cars to be taken, there’s only one in which those running the operation have special interest. Why? because it contains information about the location of $100 million, drug money, that Dom and co decide to steal and use to buy their freedom. But the money belongs to the most corrupt man in Rio and they’re being haunted by Luke Hobbs.

The fact that this movie is meant to entertain more than garner awards does not excuse the horrible performances you have to bear with for about two hours. There’s a sheer amount of melodrama in the way the actors react to what they have to do that is just mind blowing. At some points, you can’t but sit and look at the screen and go: “are they kidding me?”

Moreover, the script, especially most of the dialogue, is garbage material. I cannot conceive how the actors actually agreed on uttering some of the lines that were said. Some of those include: “I like my dessert first” when asked if they wanted good news or bad news first, followed by “now give me the vegetables”, among other lines spread throughout the movie that are completely ridiculous.

And even though you’re expecting to go into a movie with lots of cars, don’t be too disappointed when you see little car action sequences. At one point, they basically set up a race and jumped into the next scene with the race already done. There is an emphasis on the “furious” part though. The characters are almost angry all the time.

The final sequence of the movie, however, was well done. Even though it defied every law of physics that I know, it was still an enjoyable watch. And the overall resolution is quite smart, even though you might have seen it coming.

Overall, the movie should have been more accurately titled “Furious Five” but I guess that would have gotten some people confused with Kung Fu Panda. Why? because the amount of anger in the movie is unbelievable and always over the top. Although the cars and women that are featured are quite awesome, the movie fails. Why? simply because it’s too indulgent. The movie makers know this will be a hit financially and that’s all they cared about: deliver action sequences that keep a viewer entertained (hate them or like them, you cannot but watch action sequences) and that viewer would forget about all the other silly and ridiculous stuff. I’m not saying you won’t enjoy it, after all, it is a movie about cars and weapons and women, but it could have been done in a much, much better way. And watch out for The Godfather reference at the end.