A man moves a bus destroyed in a car crash near the village of Damanhur, north of Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014 (Photo: AP)
Egypt's President has ordered the formation of special court circuit for traffic law violations on Thursday, days after two mass road accidents killed 28 people, mostly minors.
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi had also assigned a specialist council for community development to devise a complete scheme to minimise road accidents. A report of experts is expected to be presented to the president within two weeks, presidential spokesperson Alaa Youssef said on Wednesday.
The cabinet also on Wednesday approved amendments to the traffic law, putting harsher punishments on violators.
The decisions came after two fatal road accidents that claimed the lives of school children.
On Wednesday, a school bus collided with a private vehicle and a wheat truck on the Alexandria agricultural road, killing 18 people and injuring 18 others, mostly students.
On Sunday, 10 Sohag University students in Upper Egypt died in an accident on Kawamel road.
Amendments put a penalty of a minimum of one year imprisonment for driving under the influence of drugs, which goes up to at least two years if the driver injures one or more persons.
Driving in the wrong direction and breaching traffic law could be punished with a six-month imprisonment, that could go up to at least three years in the event the violation leads to injury or death. Another proposed amendment allows jail terms for speeding.
It is the second time in less than six months that the traffic law has been amended.
A recent amendment by presidential decree in July gives a deadline of August 2014 for the removal of additional trailer attachments – a common cause for road accidents – to tractor trailers. Permits of the vehicles are to be gradually taken starting with the oldest.
Road accidents are recurrent across Egypt due to a lack of road maintenance and loosely implemented traffic laws.
In a phone interview with private television channel Dream on Wednesday, Minister of Transportation Hany Dahy said the cabinet has also decided to limit the hours allowed for heavy trucks to be on the road to 11 pm to 6 am, which is subject to further amendments.
Dahy said that a "collapse of roads" has happened in the past four years because of "inaccurate use," with issues such as heavy trucks carrying up to 30 tonnes have been driving on roads only designed to handle a maximum of 13 tonnes.
A scheme has been underway to revise the already existing network, start maintenance works, set up projects for new roads and extend the lanes of the existing roads, Dahy said.
The road on which the most recent accident happened was renewed last year, Dahy added.
Currently Egypt has 24,000 km of main roads linking governorates to one another. The figure goes up to 62,000 km when counting the roads inside each city.
Already some 12,000 km are under maintenance works.
A recent government report said that 100,000 car accidents took place in Egypt from 2008 to 2012, with 33,000 killed and another 150,000 injured.