Egyptian traffic police are applying seatbelt regulations with unusual New Year's resolve in a bid to reduce one of the world's highest road fatality rates.
Regulations obliging motorists to wear seatbelts were part of a law passed last March, but since many cars lacked seatbelts, once regarded by the Customs Authority as a taxable optional extra, owners were given nine months to install them.
According to the state-owned Al-Gomhuria newspaper, seatbelt prices have soared to LE200 (about £34) from LE20 as traders cashed in on panic buying before the regulations took effect.
“The campaign is going very well. We have a 90% success rate,” said a police officer in downtown Cairo. “It's been successful because people are afraid of being fined.”
Drivers caught without their seatbelts fastened face fines ofLE 50 to 100. An unbuckled passenger in the front seat of a taxi must pay a spot fine of LE20.
“Why should we have to wear seatbelts in the city where the traffic is too slow?” asked Ibrahim, a Cairo taxi driver. “At least taxi drivers shouldn't have to wear them.”
But a motorist who gave his name as Hussein disagreed. “I think it's great. I didn't wear my seatbelt regularly before, but these fines make you more careful,” he said.
The Cairo traffic department reported 3,265 seatbelt violations on New Year's Day, when the regulations took effect, the official Middle East News Agency reported.
Other provisions such as tougher penalties for speeding and double-parking, were enforced when the law was passed in March.
This article was first published by Reuters on 2 January 2001.