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Cablegate: Demarche Delivered: Distracted Driving

VZCZCXYZ0015
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHYN #0236 0390854
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 080854Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3726
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SANAA 000236

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/ARP ANDREW MACDONALD AND OES/S NANCY
CARTER-FOSTER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON SOCI UNDP UNGA EU YM
SUBJECT: DEMARCHE DELIVERED: DISTRACTED DRIVING

REF: STATE 6703

1. On February 6, EconOff delivered REFTEL demarche to Yahya
Mohammed Zahir, General Manager of Traffic in the Ministry of
Interior's (MOI) Traffic Authority. He accepted the
demarche, promised to convey the points to ROYG officials in
the Ministries of Interior and Information, and told EconOff
about the progress the ROYG has made in banning the use of
cell phones while driving.

2. In November 2009, the ROYG amended the existing driving
law, making it illegal to drive while using a cell phone or
without wearing a seatbelt. The updated regulation, Law 285
of 2009, replaced Law 46 of 1991, which did not include a ban
on the use of cell phones. As witnessed by EmbOffs, Sana'a
police officers are already enforcing the ban on cell phone
use. For a minor offense, the driver is given an oral
warning, and for a major offense, the driver is issued a
traffic violation that ranges from YR 2,000-4,000
(approximately USD 10-20). Acknowledging the prevalence of
the problem, Zahir said that in 2009, 3,071 deaths resulted
from traffic accidents in Yemen. He did not have data
available regarding fatalities caused specifically by
distracted driving. He told EconOff that the ROYG has a
modest public awareness campaign in place, showing a poster
that cautions against the dangers of using a cell phone while
driving. Zahir said that the Traffic Authority lacks the
necessary support, both financial and political, from the MOI
and Ministry of Information for a more extensive awareness
campaign.

3. Zahir told EconOff that the Traffic Authority is drafting
a new law to regulate driving, bringing Yemen up to
international standards of driving regulation and making the
fine for violating the law YR 25,000 (approximately USD 125).
He expressed concern about the general lack of traffic
safety and estimated the total cost of lack of regulation at
YR 6 billion (approximately USD 30 million), financially and
in terms of personnel. Zahir asked for U.S. assistance for
the Traffic Authority and specifically highlighted the need
for training and technical assistance.

4. Comment. Although the new policy is a step towards
developing a culture of traffic safety in Yemen, the ROYG has
its work cut out for it. Yemen remains a country where
"anything goes" when it comes to traffic rules and
regulations. Few people receive driver's training courses,
and it common to see children behind the wheel. While Sana'a
police are enforcing the new amendment of the existing
traffic law, according to post LE Staff members who travel
weekly outside of the capital, enforcement is relegated to
urban areas, where traffic police are focused, leaving
countryside driving generally unregulated. End Comment.
SECHE

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