15 February 2013

Algeria: Nation Shifts to Point-Based Driver Licenses

Algiers — Through new penalties for driving violations, Algeria looks to curb the number of road-related deaths and injuries.

Under new road rules, Algerian motorists could lose their driver's licenses through point-based penalties for violations of the Highway Code.

The Ministry of Transport introduced the new rules in attempt to curb the number of road-related fatalities and accidents. The ministry for years had promised to institute this penalty point system. The rules went into effect on February 1st.

The new driving licence will be phased in for new motorists, and each will be given 24 points. Drivers will lose points for violations of the Highway Code. How many points they lose would depend on the seriousness of the infraction.

Motorists must now present the point-based licence, a blue document, whenever highway patrol officers pull them over on the road.

"Holders of point-based licences can get half of their tally of points reinstated if they attend training at their own expense and complete an awareness programme about the causes and consequences of road accidents," Transport Minister Amar Tou explained. "At the end of this training, they will receive a training certificate."

Motorists can attend up to two training courses a year.

The new points-based system has an "educational purpose", the minister added.

According to official statistics from the Ministry of Transport, road accidents kill 3,000 people per year.

"The new licences will force motorists to be more vigilant," said Flora Boubergout, president of the El Baraka National Disabled Persons' Support Association.

Boubergout herself was victimised by a road accident.

"This system has been a great success in other countries," she added. "It is time for our country to adopt it in order to reduce the number of road offences. Awareness campaigns must start in schools, because today's children are tomorrow's motorists."

Road accidents annually leave some 3,375 people disabled every year, Boubergout noted.

"Disability has become a serious national problem", she said.

Those affected by the new rules expressed mixed opinions on how useful the new system would be.

"This new licence is an excellent thing as long as there is proper enforcement," said Hind Dali, a mother and housewife who just recently obtained her driving licence.

"When I see the number of road accidents and the behaviour of motorists on the roads, I'm really scared," she added. "I hope that giving people points which can be lost at any time will be an excellent educational tool, because every day we see that when licences are revoked by security officers, this does no good at all because offenders manage to get their licences back and in the end, there is total impunity."

Student Hamid Djelloul disagreed. "I'm worried that police officers will exceed their powers by wrongfully deciding to deduct points," the young man said. "I don't think this is the best solution."

"It's true that there are lots of accidents, but points-based licences are not the best response," he added. "The focus needs to be on cracking down and running awareness campaigns at the same time."

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