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Lebanese resist efforts to curb their speed

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Driving along Lebanon’s traffic-clogged and potholed roads is not for the timid. Middle-aged matrons chatting on cellphones steer their massive SUVs with supreme indifference to all other road users, while young men in old BMWs weave in and out of traffic at suicidal speeds.

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Speed traps have done little to ease the problem. And the toll of fatalities from pileups and hit and runs finally compelled the Lebanese government last month to take more drastic measures. Hundreds of radar-controlled cameras have been set up along main roads and streets to catch speeding motorists. By 5 p.m. on the first day, Nov. 8, more than 3,500 tickets had been issued. Anyone wondering if they may have been caught can check by sending a text message with their registration plate to a Lebanese police number. (Addresses are iffy here, so the mail is, too. And unpaid tickets are trouble at a checkpoint.)

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The effectiveness of the new measures remains to be seen. The ever-enterprising Lebanese are already finding ways to beat the system. Some are importing radar scanners, while those with GPS on their mobile phones are downloading Trapster, a user-driven application that registers the location of speed cameras and police checkpoints.