Contact us

Motoring penalties / Saudi National Day

How are things on the roads? It's now 3 months since ladies were allowed to take to the wheel, and my sightings of them in action have, as of last week, now doubled to two. Come on girls!

There has been a major announcement this month on a crackdown on poor driving standards, and the range of penalties applicable for those convicted. Hopefully these will make the roads safer and encourage more ladies out.
These penalties are summarised as follows:

* Causing serious traffic accidents resulting in death or total impairment :
4 years prison and/or fine 200,000

* Causing injuries resulting in hospitalisation for maximum 15 days: 
2 years prison and/or fine 100,000

* Vehicle, if owner does not show up within 90 days :
Impounded vehicle sold at auction

* Owner of driving schools without licence: 
Fine 200,000

* Leaving vehicle with engine running
* Not possessing insurance
* Crossing roads not specified for pedestrians
* Not giving pedestrians priority at pedestrian crossings
All: Fine 150 

* Not using indicators when changing lanes
* Reversing on main roads for more than 20 metres
* Not holding a driving licence
* Excessive use of horn
* Not taking vehicle for MPVI (MOT equivalent in UK)
* Not wearing seatbelt
* Not leaving sufficient distance between two vehicles
* Crowding at traffic accident scenes
All: Fine 300

* Throwing litter from cars
* Not focusing on driving
* Holding an expired licence
* Not using child seats
All: Fine 500

* Following emergency vehicles using sirens

Fine 900

* Emergency vehicle drivers using sirens unnecessarily
* Not stopping at traffic signals
* Writing slogans or putting stickers or drawings on cars
* Tinting of vehicle glass
Fine 900

* Driving a vehicle without a full number plate
* Carrying more passengers than the number specified in the vehicle registration
* Not using front lights when driving at night
* Gathering at "joy-riding" areas
All: Fine 2,000

* Jumping the traffic signal
* Overtaking while pupils are disembarking or boarding school buses
* Driving in the opposite direction
All: Fine 6,000

* Displaying a false number plate or concealing the true number plate
Fine 10,000

(Current exchange rates are approximately 5 SAR to 1 GBP).

Well, that's good to see that there are now specific rules in place. I wonder how rigorous the enforcement will be? What will the burden of proof be? I can also see that some of the above penalties seem a little out of balance to others - not having insurance being a sixth of the penalty compared to tinting the glass on a vehicle seems a little perverse, however I may have missed something in the translation or the intention of the violation.

I also see nothing about speeding or parking violations. Maybe they haven't been changed, and the above rules are new? I am not sure.

I mentioned some time ago that the Saudi Government's "Absher" website (where you can look up all your personal details such as visa expiry dates, residency status, etc has a section detailing traffic violations. Presumably the fines mentioned above will appear on that? When I was browsing my Absher entries (always a good idea so that you know where you stand legally, and especially so before you attempt to leave the country), I noticed that I had two traffic violations, speeding fines each at 300 SAR, marked against me. Further on-line investigation revealed that the vehicle licence plate differed slightly to that which I had in my possession. What I mean is that if my hire car ID was ABC 1234, the penalties were levied against vehicle ABC 1243, yet had been assigned to me.

So I went into the city branch of my car hire company (I pick up and drop off my hire cars at Riyadh airport) and asked that they investigate for me. They looked at their hire records, and advised me that as I had the car that had been caught speeding, then I must pay the fines. When I said that I didn't have the 1243 car, they said I did! This was quickly resolved by me taking the agent outside and showing him that I had 1234. Clearly there had been some mistake at the point of hire several weeks back, and I had been driving the wrong car. To add confusion, the car hire company owned both 1234 and 1243, so they did not realise there was a problem.
Sometimes when you go into a place and if the person serving you is unable to assist, a supervisor or perhaps a more experienced colleague will be asked to assist them. Well, this issue turned out to be a 5-person sized problem for the company. Eventually I was told that there had been a mistake and that they would amend my hire booking, transfer my insurance to the correct car and sort things out. However, it was beyond their massed capabilities to reassign the traffic violation to the real culprit, so I was asked to pay the 600 SAR fine and they would deduct the amount from my next month's hire fee. As I left, they had started to try and work out who was using the other vehicle.

In hindsight I realised that I had been driving illegally and uninsured - through no fault of my own - and had I been involved in any accident to which the police attended, I would have racked up many hundreds of SAR fines as per the tariff charges above. Scary!

Saudi National Day is 23rd September, and 2018 is the 88th anniversary of the founding of the country. It puzzles me that the Saudis celebrate the Gregorian calendar date and not the Islamic Hirji calendar date, as all other official and significant dates in the year are based on the Hirji year. But anyway, here we are and the Saudis are celebrating. There are green flags everywhere, and significant buildings are lit up in the evening with green lighting. Some insignificant structures are also lit up, such as an electricity pylon route across the north of Riyadh. Here's the Arab News commentary:

"Saudi Arabia's National Day, celebrated every year on Sept. 23, has come a long way in broadening the concept of unification over the years.
Though the National Day meant unifying disparate sheikhdoms under the nation's founder, the late King Abdul Aziz, its implications across the political, socioeconomic and cultural spectrum have not been lost on successive rulers.
It was King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who fine-tuned the definition of unification as an operating philosophy. This is why millions of citizens plan to celebrate the Saudi National Day on the streets on Sunday.
The capital city, along with other Saudi cities, will witness fireworks and the unfurling of the largest national flag. More than 900,000 fireworks will light up the sky from 58 locations across the Kingdom.
Car owners, limousine drivers and young Saudi motorcyclists said that they planned to go for drives, particularly on the fashionable streets of the capital city, to celebrate. Grocery shops, stationery shops and vendors were selling bunting, flags, banners and pictures of national heroes.
"We went around the city to see the lighting and fireworks," said Saleh Al-Omri, a local pharmacist. "Green and white balloons fill either sides of Riyadh streets," he said.
In his National Day congratulatory message, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Sheikh, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, said: "The wise policy of the leaders of this country contributed to peace, security and stability."
Fakhr Al-Shawaf, chief executive of Al-Bawani Contracting Co., said: "We are celebrating the 88th anniversary of our unification, a day when the late King Abdul Aziz established the Saudi nation."
Ali Al-Othaim, a member of Riyadh Chamber's board of directors, said: "The Kingdom is on the path of comprehensive economic and social development under Vision 2030."
Shafik Namdar, a taxi driver, said that he had bought an SR10 flag for his car and planned to work and also drive with his friends to look at the city and its landmark buildings.
Several young boys, including Arslan, 12, and Mishal, 14, said that they had bought bunting, badges and flags to decorate their houses. They planned to celebrate with a special meal at home with relatives, before going into the city streets for dance and music. Some of them had plans to organize celebrations in public parks.".

This is my third experience of National Day out here and what a huge difference from that of 2016, when nothing seemed to happen. And on the 23rd itself, King Salman decreed that the 24th would also be a National Day holiday. I wonder if there are any fireworks left?

Contacting us is straightforward

* Email:

* Call Alastair Fyfe directly on 07785 370074 (UK) or +966 503095212