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.

tmc-red-light-cameras

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?

stock-photo-three-lanes-with-left-only-straight-only-right-only-markings-can-be-used-as-a-concept-42270640

 

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.

Congrats Beirut! You Have Bike Sharing Stations Now, But No Infrastructure To Support Them

With no financial burden from the municipality of Beirut, a company called “Bike 4 All” installed the first of 25 proposed bike sharing stations for Beirut, right next to Le Grey in the downtown area.

The theoretical end date for the project, which will see around 500 available bikes in the city, is the year 2020. The rates for bike rentals have not been announced yet, but the news is already spreading like wildfire around the Lebanese blogo and internet-sphere with everyone (and their mother) lauding it as some breakthrough in our march towards “civility.”

It’s not.

To be thrilled about installing a bike sharing station in Beirut, which is nothing more than decoration at this point to the overgrown sidewalk in which it’s placed, is like one of those Beirutis being thrilled about their new face-lift without realizing they look like they’ve been hit in the face.

I hate the be *that* guy again (queue in the masses complaining that I always nag) but how is this the best thing to happen to the city in recent times? This is yet another manifestation of us, Lebanese, seeking out what brings out the flashiest headlines and most viral news report without the proper planning for it.

Tell me, did those Western bike-loving cities we want Beirut to look like install bike sharing systems without having the proper roads for them? The answer is no.

The fact of the matter is those bike sharing systems are going to be installed in a city that:

  • Doesn’t have bike lanes,
  • Doesn’t have proper sidewalks,
  • Doesn’t have proper traffic laws,
  • Doesn’t have people who respect traffic laws if present,
  • Doesn’t have policemen who enforce traffic laws if present.

Beirut has had a bike sharing system for years now. It was called “Beirut by Bike.” The many issues that company faced are summed up by the points above: every trip taken on a bicycle in the city is a hazard for the person riding.

In fact, the only Lebanese city that has a bicycle lane is Tripoli. You know what happened to the bicycle lane there? It’s become another strip for people to park their cars, and we both know that will also happen to the lane in Beirut, because that’s how we – as Lebanese – roll, especially when there’s no enforcement of any law pertaining to such things.

Yet again, where will they actually place those bike lanes? Beirut’s roads are already congested enough with the city needing a major overhaul of its entire traffic system for it to be able to introduce anything to it, and a bike sharing system without bike lanes is akin to our flag without the Cedar: it’s always lacking.

The sadder part is Beirut doesn’t even have proper car lanes to begin with, and we want to fake civility with bike sharing stations? Announcing bike sharing stations before planning for them with lanes and other important facets is because stations bring attention, lines in the street do not.

Perhaps in a city where garbage tends to find a way to pile up on the street every other month, and water is always scarce whilst the rest of the country drowns and where the only traffic law respected, albeit sporadically, is that of the seatbelt, biking isn’t a priority yet, especially when it’s not even thought out properly.

Lebanese Policeman Physically Assaults a Woman For Stopping at a Red Light & Ends Up Innocent Anyway

The series of horrifying violations to our right as people from those who are in power in this wonderful country continues.

We’ve all been driving or in cars and suddenly find ourselves boxed in by a convoy for some politician who decides that his right of passage, as are the rest of his rights, more important than yours; who decides that your car and safety are irrelevant and who has no problem in killing you to make sure he gets his way, literally.

The mode of management for these convoys is to avoid them. You see those dark, tinted SUVs approaching and you run the opposite way. They are barbaric, lawless people who hold the rule of law in their hands: there’s nothing you can do just deal with it.

In fact, even the new driving law will NOT be applied to these convoys. Why? Because the government won’t apply a law on itself, but will screw you over again and again for your money so they can play house, not legislate, not vote for a president, not run the country and still take away your rights whenever they can.

Lawyer Rania Ghaith was stuck at a red light on Monday in front of one of those convoys at the Qantari intersection that leads up to Hamra. The convoy in question behind her was for our minister of internal affairs Mr. Nouhad el Machnouk.

 

The policeman at the intersection was telling Rania to run the red light and break the law so the convoy can pass. She stood her own and waited. When the light turned green, she let the convoy pass and would have been on her way hadn’t that policeman, who was NOT a traffic policeman and as such had no place to regulate traffic, pulled her over.

What happened next was not him simply writing her a ticket.

It was him pulling Rania out of her car, by her hair, and assaulting her physically in the middle of the street.

Unfortunately no one filmed the incidence but there were plenty of eyewitnesses. The physician’s report of Rania’s condition immediately following the incident also confirmed that she was the victim of a physical assault.

The ironic part is that the convoy was just a decoy.

This isn’t the full story, sadly.

Rania filed a lawsuit against the officer in question immediately, and the preliminary trial was today. In that trial, the overseeing judge in Military Court Hani Al-Hajjar did not, according to MTV:

  1. Ask for the physician’s report on Rania’s condition,
  2. Did not call for eyewitness testimony,
  3. Did not let Rania Ghaith testify.

As such, the judge decided that the man was innocent and could be released. He did not pay any bail, and the Lebanese Syndicate of Lawyers has not taken any steps in trying to defend the rights of one of their own.

 

Of course, this shouldn’t come as a shock in a country of no law, misogyny, and in the presence of people who think they are always above the law and who have no problem in making sure you know it at every single second of every day.

Not only was that policeman breaking the law by operating at that intersection, he also violated the law by assaulting a Lebanese citizen whose only fault was standing at a red light, respecting her country’s law at a time when he didn’t want that.

That policeman, whose name we unfortunately don’t know, violated Rania as a Lebanese, as a woman, as a citizen who respects the law, as a simple human being who should NOT be assaulted because the policeman had a testosterone rush because a woman defied him. And what’s worse, Lebanon’s military court – the same one that found Michel Samaha not *that* guilty – has now declared him innocent.

How long should Lebanese citizens, women and men, be the victims of the whims of policemen who know they have no reason to break our rights, our bones, our spine because they will get away with it anyway? How much proof do we need to get rid our streets of such elements that only serve to endanger us? What would have happened had that policeman been a bit angrier? Would he have shot Rania because she didn’t break a red light?

Does anyone even hear how silly it is to have a headline that goes: Policeman assaults woman because she stopped at a red light?

Let me take this a step further: how horrifying is it that this policeman not only assaulted that woman for not breaking the law, but has been declared innocent and is back on the streets, ready to attack other women, and other people on a whim?

Mr. Nouhad el Machnouk: You should not accept such a thing to pass by unnoticed. Your convoys, and those of every single politician in this country, are not more important than our well-being, than rights, our existence. You should not accept for Rania Ghaith to become yet another victim of abuse by those who are above the law, and who have the political backing to spit in her face during her trial: “If I were in my friend’s place, I would’ve torn you to pieces.”

This is not a country, this is a jungle.

Rania Ghaith, I hope you get your justice sooner rather than later.

Jal el Dib Citizens Need To Tone Down the Bridge Melodrama

We apologize from all citizens. But you won’t be able to use this highway on July 10th starting 7 A.M. We want a tunnel, not hypocrisy.

That’s the banner citizens of Jal el Dib hung on a pedestrian bridge near their city’s exit. They are still protesting the demolition of a hazardous bridge that threatened the lives of people who drove on it but which provided a passageway under it for them to access their city easily.

So today, instead of immediately taking a left (or a right, depending on highway direction) when they reached the bridge area, they have to go all the way to the Nahr el Mot ramp and take the opposite highway. In total, that’s about 15-20 minutes extra in rush hour, not more and anyone who says it’s more than that is lying to you.

Jal el Dib citizens can go into Antelias and take inner roads to get to Jal el Dib. But no! They need a bonafide bridge all for them. An extra few minutes is unacceptable. It’s a disgrace.

One does not simply not have a bridge or a tunnel for their corresponding hometown in Lebanon. One does not simply lessen the exits on Lebanese highway to lessen congestion. One does not simply accept the government not spending over $20 million for a tunnel only one would be using.

That’s how the citizens of Jal el Dib are functioning these days. Forget what $20 million would do (if it’s not stolen) to various sectors, we must spend them on a useless bridge.

Electricity? NO. BRIDGE!

Water? NO. BRIDGE!

Internet? NO. BRIDGE!

Better roads for all? NO. BRIDGE FOR US!

And the story goes on and on.

Dear Jal el Dib people,

One does not threaten to block the road for EVERYONE simply to prove a point. One does not stop EVERYONE from going to work just because you need an extra few minutes to get to work and with you being so close to Beirut, why don’t you think about those commuting from Tripoli every morning?

God forbid you wake up a few minutes early every day so you’re not late for work. God forbid your city doesn’t “suffer” because it’s “harder” for people to get to it. Let me tell you something which applies to many: we won’t visit Jal el Dib unless we have something to do there and if we have something to do there we will have to take any road that gets us there.

Perhaps some Jal el Dib citizens should be taken to some European countries where missing a highway exit means you have to drive for more than 10 minutes in order to correct your mistake. But hey, this is Lebanon. So they got what they wanted because our politicians are too cowardly to stand up for anything and our security forces are too “neutral” to disperse any undemocratic form of expression.

Fa bel lebnene, fina bala ghenej w me7en ba2a?