The new traffic law was passed by the National Assembly in June 2001 introducing stiffer penalties for major life-threatening offences such as running a red light, speeding or driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics and repetitive offences.
Driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs is punishable by up to a year in prison and/or a KD 500 fine. The court can also confiscate the driving licence in case of repetitive offences.
Reckless driving, driving without a valid driving licence or driving a vehicle not permitted to drive as per the driving licence, is punishable by KD 100 fine and/or one month in jail. Out of court settlement is possible after the payment of KD 30 fine.
Breaking a red light is punishable by up to three months in jail and/or KD 300 fine.
Speeding, unauthorised racking, wrong side driving are punishable by up to KD 100 fine. For out of court settlement the violator will have to pay KD 50 fine.
Failure to fasten the seat belt, failure to produce a driver’s licence or the vehicle registration book upon request by traffic police or security men is punishable by up to KD. 15 fine. An out-of-court settlement is possible after payment of KD 10.
There are two types of monetary penalties, settlement and court fines. Settlement refers to fines that may be paid without going to court. However out-of-court settlements must be made within 30 days of committing the offence or from the date of being informed. If this time limit is exceeded then the offender must pay the minimum court fine in settlement, unless he decides to go to court.
Out-of-court settlement is not acceptable in certain circumstances and the matter must go to court where the penalties are more onerous. If jumping a red light or exceeding the speed limit results in death or serious injury, settlement is not allowed and the driver is liable to a court fine of at least KD1,000 and a jail term of one to two years. If these offences are carried out under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the jail-term is two to three years.
The law also introduces the “points system” which is a record of the number and nature of traffic offences for drivers within a period of one year. The points will determine the penalty of suspending the driving licence for up to one year or revoke the driver’s licence completely and require drivers to pass driving test again.
The new points system for traffic offences effective from July, 2006 is as follows:
While still upholding the enforced penalties of the new traffic law, 4 points are recorded in the drivers record for breaking the red light, exceeding the speed limit, or reckless driving.
Three points are recorded for driving the vehicle in the opposite direction of the traffic flow, driving a vehicle other than the type allowed in the driver’s license, driving a vehicle with expired or suspended registration, using a vehicle for racing without a permit, using a vehicle to commit immoral acts, driving a vehicle without or with tempered licence plate, or using false information to obtain drivers license or car registration documents.
Two points are recorded for using a private vehicle to ferry passengers for money, deliberately obstructing traffic, driving a vehicle with malfunctioning brakes or handing over the vehicle to someone without a valid driving licence.
One point is recorded for violating passenger loading regulations, exceeding vehicle stipulated weight, width and length, non-adherence and neglecting traffic lines and signs, wrong 'U' turn, driving a vehicle without the compulsory insurance document, invalid car permit and vehicle emitting smoke.
A driver who accumulates 14 points faces having his license suspended for three months for the first time. For the next 12 points, the driving licence is suspended for six months and for nine months to a year for the next 10 and 8 points respectively.
For the next six points, the fifth time, the driving license is revoked and the driver must apply for a new driving license and take the driving tests again.
The points are cancelled only after the execution of the stipulated penalties or maintaining a clean driving record for a year after recording of the most recent points.
A court conviction or an out-of-court settlement for traffic offences does not cancel the recorded points.
New drivers who commit two serious offences such as breaking the lights, exceeding the speed limit or driving against the traffic flow, during their first year on the road have their licences withdrawn, and have to wait four months and retake the driving test before applying for a new licence.
The police have the power to detain drivers for the following reasons:
- Driving without a valid driving licence
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Causing an accident which may result in death or serious injury
- Racing on the public roads.
- Attempting to flee after being involved in an accident in which people may have been injured or after being ordered to stop
- Failing to stop at a red traffic light
- Driving recklessly so as to endanger others
The emergency services and police usually respond quickly to traffic accidents. In nearly all cases all the parties involved are required to go with the police to the nearest station to sort matters out. If the police decide to prosecute and the accident is not serious, those involved are required to post a bond pending their appearance in court. If an accident is serious, the parties may be held in custody until they appear in court.
HINTS FOR EXPATS
- Drive defensively. One-third of all deaths in Kuwait are driving-related and the country has one of the highest road accident rates in the world.
- In the event of an accident, the insurance companies will require a police report before they will consider a claim. But if the car is moved before the police arrive, they will refuse to provide the report.
- All accidents must be reported to the police and garages may not repair accident damage without written clearance from the police.
In the traffic court the judge, will have a copy of the police report, the drivers’ and witnesses’ statements, photographs and maps. Proceedings consist mainly of the judge’s questions. In minor cases involving only expatriates, the questioning may be conducted in English. In serious cases, proceedings are in Arabic and a non-Arabic speaker should ensure that someone whose bilinguality he trusts is present to interpret. After statements have been heard, the matter, if the case is minor, may be decided there and then. In more serious cases, the court will adjourn to consider the facts and there will be a further hearing later.