In a new push to curb phone usage while driving, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) has deployed traffic police around Qatar to write up and fine violators “on the spot.”
The drive is a sign that the government has moved beyond awareness campaigns and is now taking more punitive action to enforce road safety.
On Twitter this week, the MOI warned residents to concentrate on the road or face consequences:
Motorists using mobile while driving will be booked on the spot by traffic patrols and security cops.#MoI_Qatar
— Ministry of Interior (@MOI_QatarEn) July 27, 2016
Speaking to the Peninsula, an official at the Media & Traffic Awareness Department said that police have been sent across Doha, Dukhan, Al Shamal and other areas this week to catch people on their phones.
The campaign will continue throughout the summer “because there is no major traffic jam and it is easy to stop any violator and register offenses,” Maj. Jaber Mohamed Rashid Odaiba said.
Drivers and those not wearing seatbelts in the front will also be fined QR500, he added.
Using a phone while driving is illegal in Qatar, and can result in a QR500 ticket.
But enforcement of the law has always been uneven, even though it has long been the main reason people get into accidents here.
These days, according to officials, motorists are no longer texting or talking so much, but instead taking selfies and using social media apps.
In November, an officer said those who take photos of themselves and use Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp while driving were responsible for 80 percent of major accidents in Qatar.
And according to Odaiba, the new Pokémon Go app is also now contributing to the problem.
While the officer said Qatar often holds enforcement campaigns in the summer, this latest one comes after the MOI found 94 percent of people surveyed online were worried about mobile usage while driving.
Meanwhile, in another attempt to punish bad drivers, the government’s central bank recently instructed insurance companies to raise premiums for those who have been in accidents or incurred traffic violations.