That there are bad, careless and, worse, selfish drivers in Saudi Arabia is only too well known. Drivers speeding, forcing other road users out of the way, running traffic lights, weaving in and out of traffic at high speed and racing are daily occurrences on Saudi roads.
The Saher electronic surveillance system was set up to tackle traffic offenses, in particular speeding and running traffic lights. That it is unpopular is evident: Drivers are now being successfully penalized for offenses they previously managed to get away with. But the rise in attacks on Saher employees is both shocking and unacceptable. There have been several since the system was unveiled: Saher vehicles with speed cameras attacked by people wielding metal bars or throwing rocks, their occupants injured. But the attack reported this week on a Saher employee in Abha, who was shot at by a man who then sped off with his colleague before the police arrived is the worst instance so far.
As with previous Saher vehicle attacks, this was clearly not a simple case of road rage (not that that makes it any less culpable). The Saher vehicle was followed by the assailants. They targeted it. This was a premeditated attack.
The police in Abha must devote their fullest energies to tracking down the culprits. They should be able to do so. The victim is reported as having given them the registration number of the attackers’ vehicle. If there are no arrests, questions will inevitably be asked about the police’s competence and integrity.
The culprits should be given a very stiff prison sentence. Examples have to be made if these criminal attacks are to be stopped. They have to be. Unless they are, sooner or later a Saher official is going to be killed. The fact that only a few people have been involved in such selfish, wicked behavior is no excuse for not coming down with an iron fist on them. Otherwise, the problem will only get worse.
The anecdotal evidence indicates that most of the culprits are Saudis. In one case last December in Makkah, five men, three of them dressed in military uniforms, assaulted two Saher operators who had to be hospitalized as a result. The police investigated but there has never been any announcement of an arrest. That raises the question whether the culprits were protected?
There are those who say that the only fault with Saudi drivers is that they drive too fast, that it is other nationalities who are the bad drivers. That the majority of drivers in the Kingdom are foreign is a fact. But this is nonsense verging on racism.
The problem is not Saudi drivers or foreign drivers, it is young drivers — they constitute a higher proportion of road users in Saudi Arabia than in most countries — who think they are above the law. When one hears the whingeing about the Saher system it is astounding, such as complaints that speeding drivers can be flashed more than once by Saher vehicles spaced out along the road and thus have to pay more than one fine. So they should. They should not be speeding in the first place.
The Saher system is there to prevent accidents and save lives. Anyone who thinks he is above the law is contemptible and deserves to suffer the consequences when caught.