Here Are All The Fines Of Lebanon’s New Traffic and Driving Law

Almost two years ago, there was talk about a new traffic law to be implemented in the country in order to make driving here more civilized. From a new driver’s license that can actually be used abroad and is the size of a regular ID card, to regulations such as those present in developed nations, the law met the fate of almost all other Lebanese laws that try to advance the country: it died at the hand of no enforcement, wastas and Lebanese people who are too macho to follow laws.

Over the past few days, cameras have been set up across the Greater Beirut area to enforce proper stopping at red lights. That is not only actually stopping at a red light, but stopping behind the pedestrian crosswalk which many cars tend to pass mostly because few are those who know those dashed lines – when they can see them – should not be crossed.

With all the confusion surrounding those new fines, I figured the best way to approach this is to find what fines are included in the new law and how much are they. Thanks to Joe Maalouf, I was able to procure pictures of how those fines are classified and, through another source, how those fines are priced.

In general, fines are divided into 5 categories, with increasing severity. Not stopping at a red light (or a stop sign when found) or not stopping before a crosswalk are only a first category fine that would cost you 100,000LL (or about $70). Driving under the influence, however, or doing dangerous maneuvers while driving (betweens and whatnot) or driving with an expired license are category five fines that would cost you 3,000,000LL or $2000.

Of course, all of this wouldn’t be complete without enforcing better driving exams for new drivers as well as enforce those updated driver’s licenses on everyone with the application of a point system from which points are deducted for each fine the driver commits.

Until then, one wonders: where is all the money from these fines going? Will we ever get a country where we, as citizens, can trace how the money the government takes from us is used to make our roads, infrastructure and our lives better? Will those who have wastas also be subject to this? How will the law be enforced on everyone equally?

Until then, don’t fret too much. I landed in Lebanon less than 7 hours ago. On my way home, drivers were doing those $2000 betweens, political convoys almost caused a multiple car crash in their attempt to flex their street muscles and red lights and street lanes were not obeyed, all to the sight of policemen in the vicinity. Crickets.

Welcome to Lebanon. Behold the fines:

Category One Fines:

Illegal parking: 100,000 LL.
Parking on sidewalks: 150,000 LL,
Transportation of workers in pick-up trucks: 150,000 LL,
Using illegal sirens: 150,000 LL.

Category Two Fines:

Going 20km/h above the speed limit: 200,000 LL,
Driving under the speed limit: 200,000 LL,
Modified or worn-out license plates: 200,000 LL,
Doing illegal u-turns: 200,000 LL,
Having non-licensed tinted windows: 250,000 LL,
Driving with an expired driver’s license: 250,000 LL,
Transporting items on a motorcycle: 300,000 LL.

Category Three Fines:

No seatbelt: 350,000 LL,
Wearing an unfastened helmet: 350,000 LL,
Unpaid mechanique: 350,000 LL,
Using the phone while driving: 350,000 LL,
Not wearing a helmet: 400,000 LL,
Children under 5  not placed in a car seat: 450,000 LL,
Children under 10 sitting in the front seat: 450,000 LL,
Not obeying a traffic cop: 450,000 LL.

Category Four Fines:

No license plates on cars: 600,000 LL,
Violating traffic lights: 700,000 LL,
Driving unregistered vehicles: 700,000 LL,
Driving at 40-60km/h above speed limit: 700,000 LL,
Violating one-way roads: 700,000 LL.

Category five fines:

Driving without a license: 2,000,000 LL,
Driving at >60km/h above speed limit: 3,000,000 LL,
Racing: 3,000,000 LL,
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs: 3,000,000 LL,
Dangerous maneuvers while driving: 3,000,000 LL.

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Dear Lebanese Government, Can You Not Add New Fines & Increase Taxes When You’re Offering Nothing In Return?

Over the past couple of weeks, the Lebanese government has devised two ways with which it will be taking away the hard-earned money of Lebanese everywhere: new taxes and new traffic fines.

In absolute value, taxes and fines are not always bad news. My uncle in California was telling me how the state voted to actually increase sales tax because the extra revenue would go into infrastructure enhancement. But that’s California, and we’re in Lebanon where the government is currently convening to vote on a budget for the first time in 12 years when the deadline for the electoral law they’ve been slacking off about for the past 8 years is in 2 days. This is to say that while Lebanon is a pretty country, its governance is shit. This isn’t a matter of debate.

It comes as a surprise, therefore, that there’s current talks about increasing the tax on alcohol over 500%. While the initial tax is super low (60 liras on beer) and therefore a 500% increase is not that significant (300 lira is still okay), it’s the idea behind the tax increase that matters here: where will the money go and what’s the point of it?

The tax increase in question will have even worse effects on those who sell it, with repercussions on the consumer, and it comes at an odd time given the rising anti-alcohol sentiment in certain Hezbollah-controlled areas.

Yes, alcohol is a luxury item, and luxury items should be taxed, but there’s a degree of accountability to trace how our tax money goes and if it’s going to good use. As far as the Lebanese way goes, I’d say that extra 500% on alcohol would go towards more chopper rides for Gebran Bassil and friends. That’s how our tax money is used, ladies and gentlemen: to allow our politicians to enjoy their lifestyles and maintain them as high as possible. Isn’t it ironic, therefore, that there’s actual tax increase discussions when parliament and the government low-key passed increases in compensation for families of past MPs. Moreover, let’s not pretend this is to improve the health of the Lebanese populace. If they cared they’d have taxed cigarettes but those are not religiously controversial items.

The other new added source of income for the government is with them installing red-light enforcement cameras across the Greater Beirut area. How those cameras work is as follows: when you reach a red light, you’re supposed to stop. YES, THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION. Anyway, when you stop at that red light you’re supposed to stop BEFORE the pedestrian crosswalk because those stripes in the middle of the road are supposed to be used by, you know, pedestrians crossing the road. The current state of the country is not like this at all.

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I’m all for extra traffic fines in the country. Lord knows our driving is horrendous and needs as much measures for it to be improved as possible, but how can you improve driving through negative reinforcement when the notion of what you are trying to reinforce has never been taught in the first place? As in, Lebanese drivers are not taught how to obey traffic laws in the first place so how are they to be aware that they’re supposed to stop before a crosswalk?

Our driving tests go as follows: you show up after having paid that astronomical $300+ fee, with whatever you paid extra for that wasta, you do that computer exam about street signs and are helped by whoever is present there because they just want to be done with it, and then go do your practical test which involves you parallel parking and then going in reverse in a manual-transmission car which has been modified so much that to drive it, you don’t even have to use the pedal.

So how can you expect drivers whose only experience with actual “official” driving is that corrupt and silly to suddenly be aware of rules that are strictly applied in countries that have way more detailed and elaborate driving tests?

This is most obvious with the fact that with a trial run of the new cameras, they collected fines every 8 seconds. But I digress.

The question is: how am I supposed to stop at a crosswalk if I can’t even see the crosswalk in the first place? How much actual investment from the fines that are already incurred has gone into the roads around Beirut to make sure that, say, those roads are up to standard you want to put the drivers to?

Have all those parking fines they’ve been collecting since enforcing the paid parking system around Beirut improved our sidewalks? No. Did it improve our roads? No. Did the speeding tickets they’ve been collecting for ages now, with increasing values since that new law they passed, contribute to better roads and infrastructure? No.

So where the hell is all the money going? No one knows.

Does our government know that there are more rules for “civilized” driving around Beirut that have to be applied as well, such as, at the top of my head, enforcing the fact that the direction of lanes (as in lanes with a left arrow or lanes with straight arrows, etc..) should be obeyed could cut down on so much traffic, as in when someone from the right lane decides they want to go to the left and cuts off the entire left lane in doing so?

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The problem with such new measures, whether new taxes or new fines, is that they’re always half-assed and poorly thought out. They’re never the first step in actually improving the system to begin with and always come at a cost to us as citizens. You want to put on cameras to make sure people stop properly at red lights? How about you make sure those people can properly drive in the first place by making sure our driving test process isn’t a joke and that the roads they’re supposed to drive on are up to far? You want people to pay more taxes on alcohol? How about you make sure the alcohol in the market is up to par?

In short, you want us to pay more taxes and fines, you have to pay up first in services and improvement. And to be honest, at the rate we’re going, that’s not asking for much.

Flügen Rides: Kunhadi Trying To Save The Lives & Mentalities of Lebanese Youth Who Drink And Drive

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The numbers are staggering.

In 2015, Lebanon had 4300 car accidents leading to more than 500 casualties, most of which (around 34%) were in the 15 – 29 age bracket. Most of those car accidents were not because of malfunctions but because those driving did not respect the rules.

A recent report on French TV M6 showed the extent to which Lebanese drivers just couldn’t care. It’s a sign of “strength” to disregard traffic laws (or any law for that matter), build cars that are a safety hazard for anyone involved, flex driving muscles with with utter disregard to any other person around you or even with you in the car. As they note, the rate of deaths from car accidents in the country if extrapolated to France’s population would be around 15,500 deaths per year.

I noticed this firsthand when I drove extensively in the United States recently. It may come as a surprise to many, but we actually have a lot of the same regulations as they do: yielding on certain exits or when entering roundabouts, stop signs, lanes meant to turn left only or go straight only, etc… The difference is in the United States you’d get into so much trouble if you don’t respect those laws while Lebanon empowers your law breaking capacities.

One of the bigger driving problems, further exacerbated by the fact laws are not applied and our driving mentalities are as rotten as they come, is drunk driving. Alcohol driving limits are never enforced. Driving under the influence is never taken seriously. Assigning a designated driver to your parties is seen as a sign of weakness. In summary, it’s the norm to drink beyond the point of getting wasted and then (attempt to) drive home.

Over the past few years, Kunhadi has been doing what the Lebanese government isn’t and that is try, to the best of their capacities, to enforce some form of traffic law in the country. This is why they are among my favorite NGOs in this country and I tend to support them as often as I can. The number of lives they’ve saved over the past decade by making sure the youth they encounter become aware of their driving shortcomings are astounding.

To that effect, with the holidays coming up, Kunhadi is launching another step in trying to prevent Lebanese youth from drinking and driving and that is through an app they’re calling Flügen Rides. The app is not an uber-like service, but rather an aggregate of different taxi companies and drivers who were trained by Kunhadi.

 

For 3 weekends starting December 16, Flügen cabs will be parked inside Jounieh pubs street, and will be available for free there. To those who came using their own cars but choose to go back home with Flügen so as not to risk their lives with driving under the influence of alcohol or fatigue, Kunhadi will offer a free ride back to pick up cars the next day.

Flügen Rides will also offer special wheelchair-equipped vehicles and is the first service in Lebanon to do so. The drivers and companies offering services in the app will also be periodically monitored by Kunhadi to make sure they’re up to the required qualifications.

Kudos to Kunhadi for being so proactive in trying to fix as much as they can fix in a system that is becoming, daily, broken beyond repair. It’s just heartbreaking, to be honest, than an NGO has to revert to such extraordinary measures to try and get Lebanese youth to actually care about their lives, and the repercussions those have on their loved ones, in the first place. I wonder, what does that say about us and the culture we perpetuate by not caring about any rules and about ourselves to begin with?

Download the app on iOS and Android.

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.

 

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.