Manama: Kuwait has deported six foreigners after they were caught driving without valid licences.
The six were held as the traffic authorities conducted a campaign last week to crack down on road violations and ensure higher levels of safety.
During the campaign in the six governorates of the northern Arabian Gulf state, 32,345 drivers were booked for failing to comply with the traffic laws and regulations, 56 drivers were referred to the traffic authorities, and 1,322 cars and 14 motorcycles were impounded.
The authorities added they dealt with 1,644 accidents in which six people were killed and 244 were injured.
“We will be relentless in our drive to ensure the safety of the people on the road and the compliance with the driving rules,” the public relations department at the traffic general directorate said, Kuwaiti daily Al Rai reported on Thursday. “Drivers should make sure they do not exceed the speed limits, jump red lights and commit themselves to all the regulations in order to limit the incidence of traffic accidents and avoid accidents and the ensuing tragedies,” it said.
Despite its small population of around 3.3 million people, Kuwait has been seriously hit by an alarming rate of road accidents and injuries, and the authorities said they would deport foreigners who drove without a licence.
Security sources attributed the decision to toughen the traffic law to the fact that several expatriates did not mind paying the “trivial” fine of KD30 if they were arrested by the police and kept on driving without obtaining a Kuwaiti licence,
Officials said there were clear instructions to adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards anyone breaking the law and to refer anyone caught behind the steering wheel without a proper licence to the deportation office for legal action.
Campaigns were regularly launched to address deficiencies and abuses on the roads, which have gained unwanted notoriety as chaotic and dangerous, in the absence of an adequate driving culture and full compliance with rules and regulations.
The crackdowns included the non-possession of licences, grave traffic offences, and the misuse of licences by some of the drivers.
Last year, 413 foreigners were deported in ten months for breaking traffic rules, official figures indicate.
According to the interior ministry, 297 expatriates were deported for driving without a valid driving licence while the others were expelled for not complying with traffic regulations.
In May, Kuwait deported 78 Arabs and non-Arab expatriates for driving without licences and arrested over a period of three weeks from April 21 until May 18.
In 2013, Kuwait deported 503 foreigners for committing serious traffic violations that included jumping red lights, reckless driving, using private vehicles to carry passengers illegally, and driving without a proper licence. Five of the deportees were from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a loose alliance of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The traffic deportation campaign has evoked both warm support and sharp criticism in the local community and the blogosphere was awash with arguments from all sides.
Those who endorsed the move said that it would help make the roads safer for all and would ensure that foreigners acted within the confines of the law.
However, others argued that it was a measure targeting a vulnerable segment of residents.
A study released in 2009 predicted that traffic congestions and accidents would cost Kuwait 27.430 billion dinars (Dh332.05 billion) over ten years as the country tries to shrug off a terrible world record.