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Deaths mar Egypt's new road laws

1 August 08 17:18 GMT

Egyptian police say at least 11 people have been killed in a head-on collision on the day new laws came into effect aimed at bringing order to the roads.

The accident, involving two minibuses and a lorry, happened south of Cairo.

An estimated 6,000 people are killed in road accidents every year in Egypt and more than 30,000 are injured.

The new laws impose fines and other punishments for such things as driving without lights at night, and travelling on the wrong side of the road.

Friday's crash happened when one minibus tried to overtake the other as they headed south from Cairo towards Asyut and collided with a gravel truck travelling in the opposite direction.

Controversial

The BBC's Magdi Abdelhadi in Cairo says many Egyptians are sceptical about the changes, because even the existing regulations are not always enforced.

Among the most controversial items of the new legislation is the requirement that all cars should have first-aid kits.

"We are drivers not doctors," one taxi driver told the BBC.

"If a passenger is injured or has a broken bone, can someone like me help him? I will probably make things worse because I do not have the training."

Reckless driving, poorly maintained vehicles and the failure to enforce existing regulations are often cited as main cause of road accidents in Egypt.

Many people say laws are applied selectively, on the poor and not on the rich and powerful.

The stipulation that vehicles must have a specific kind of first-aid kit has fuelled a widely held belief that the law is designed to benefit well-connected businessmen rather than motorists.

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