Automated Traffic Violations Administering and Monitoring Project / ATVAM
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Min. of Interior
Saudi Arabia

The Problem

Saudi Government officials confronted one of the biggest problems in the world in that KSA was often identified as “globally having the most traffic deaths per capita" and determined this unfortunate reputation and disturbing statistics were due to a general disregard for traffic regulations and specifically red light crossing and excessive speeding.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has undergone massive changes during the past 20 years. For example, Riyadh witnessed a five-fold increase in daily vehicle trips in the past 20 years. The current 5.5 million daily trips are expected to increase to 15 million daily trips in the next 10 years, accompanied by a reduction of average speed from 51 Kph to 20 Kph.

Citizens expect a safe environment to live in as wealth and urbanizations continue to grow rapidly. However, there are also years of traditions with methods of social, tribal and family negotiation practices that are at odds with the requirement to adhere to general safety rules and personal accountability. Nowhere is this problem more apparent than in the management of conduct while driving cars on overcrowded roads within a society which traditionally conducted themselves in a self-trained and largely unregulated domain.

The responsibility protecting Saudis and residents on the Nation’s roads rests with the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Traffic and the problem was enormous:
• KSA experienced 18 fatalities per day or 6400 a year;
• a crippling or disabling injury every 15 minutes;
• traffic accidents are the principle cause of death in males aged between 16-36; and
• an astronomical figure of 3.5 billion USD annually in property damage and lost productivity.

But it was the recognition by Ministry officials that the government itself was enabling violators’ behavior by ignoring the use of “influence” or “wasta” (the traditional method of problem resolution) that allowed the system to waive charges and thereby accelerating more harm and evil to all society members while decreasing police effectiveness because of the loss of personal accountability and wide-ranging belief that the rules were flexible.

Ministry analysts defined the problem as “Traffic Management” or the more efficient use of existing traffic infrastructure and better driving behavior of people in order to improve the current traffic situation in a large city with bad traffic congestions.

Traffic violations in the past were processed in a manual system that allowed traffic violators to use “wasta” to remove their traffic violation tickets. As a result only a few traffic offenders were fined for these violations.

A new way of dealing with traffic violations was needed to increase the Ministry’s effectiveness in dealing with these offences and to provide a radically safer place for the Saudi driving public.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The Ministry of the Interior has created the Automated Traffic Violations Administering and Monitoring (ATVAM) Program for implementation throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. ATVAM includes deployment of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) using the latest technology in traffic enforcement and traffic management sub-systems and services to enhance safety on the road networks, while optimizing the transportation infrastructure, attempting to decrease fatality rate, improve road congestion situation, and reduce the loss of productivity.

The main aims of the ATVAM were to

A. Improve traffic safety by means of deploying red light photo enforcement systems to record and cite traffic signal (red light) violations. Also, deploy both fixed site and mobile site, speed photo enforcement application to record and cite violations for vehicles exceeding the posted speed limit.

B. Enhance the capacity of existing road networks through the deployment of “smart” traffic management technology such as “green wave” and “adaptive” signal controllers, variable message signs (VMS), and closed-circuit TV/video-based incident detection (CCTV/VBID) to capture, document and demonstrate drivers' faults.

C. Establish Violation Processing Center(s) (VPC) to support the processing and management of captured traffic violations.

D. Establish Traffic Management Command and Control Centers (CCC) to receive input from all deployed TM&S subsystems and communicate them to the appropriate authorities involved in the process.

E. Create innovative funding mechanisms to try to self-finance the implementation and operations of the technologies, as much as possible to alleviate the government from financial burdens and administration.

This program was developed through a real partnership between the private sector, e.g. the system developer and solution provider, and the traffic police department. The program achieved best results in reducing traffic accidents, generating substantial amount of funds to maintain the system, and above all, to help secure lives, cut down on loss of property and productivity and ensure equity and transparency among people.

A lot of excellent positive feedback was received about the implementation of the system. A sense of equity was truly felt by the public, especially women with drivers, elderly and poor people and handicapped drivers felt relief when the system was applied fairly to all drivers.

The system also reduces a tremendous amount of paperwork on the part of the traffic police department, thus enabling them to dedicate their time and efforts to more fruitful and security activities.

The ATVAM program is automated and cannot be modified by human intervention. Traffic offenders are therefore not able to remove their traffic violation citations through “wasta” and have to pay up their fines if they want to continue receiving public services such as renewal of driving licenses. The result is better driving behavior resulting in a 30% reduction in traffic accident related deaths and injuries.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
In order to have a fair transparent practice, the Ministry of the Interior tendered a request for proposal (RFP) in 2005 for an Intelligent Transportation System that could achieve the objectives stated above and accomplish the desired results for society by developing a fair and effective public-private partnership to efficiently address the problem.

The terms of the Tender required responding applicants to submit “investment” proposals, along with their bids, structured to provide private, or “Investor” funding for implementation of traffic enforcement sub-systems (now known as ATVAM Phase I), and propose a pricing mechanism that uses penalty revenues from violators to fund implementation of the much-needed traffic management sub-systems (now known as ATVAM Phase II).

Investors are responsible to plan, design, finance, procure, install, test, deploy and commission the required systems. A subsequent decision was made to divide the Kingdom into three implementation regions in preparation for a rollout of the developed system. The purpose was to decrease pricing and increase technology competition and to accelerate rollout through the application of more resources for the achievement of the best public service. This approach should satisfy the Program objective of “innovative funding” by shifting initial program cost to the Investors, rather than the government, and thereby encouraging their direct interest in Program’s success.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
Development and implementation procedures and chronology of the ATVAM Program involve three distinct phases as indicated herein: 1) Phase 0 – Mobilization. 2) Phase 1 - Law Enforcement and VPC (Violation Processing Centers). 3) Phase 2 - Traffic Management and CCCs.

Phase 0 – Mobilization: includes the establishment of systems integration and technical management services operations. This 6 month phase is completed.

Phase 1 - Law Enforcement: includes the installation, deployment, and operations of the law enforcement systems. This phase is scheduled for a six month period and includes the construction of the Violation Processing Center (VPC). This facility is where the law enforcement systems and data gathered from the systems will be managed. This phase is nearly complete and initiatives to expand it are already in progress.

Phase 2 - Traffic Management: includes the installation, deployment, and operations of the traffic management systems and the corresponding infrastructure including the Integrated Traffic Management Central Control System (ITMCCS). This Phase is scheduled for an 18 months implementation period and is currently in progress.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
There were many serious obstacles to overcome in order to successfully implement this very aggressive and “game-changing” program. They can be categorized primarily as Political, Social, and Technical.

Cultural: It required vision, wisdom, and courage on the part His Royal Highness King Abdullah to forsake the culture of tribal, familial, and “other” entitlement to make a meaningful effort to curb the carnage occurring on Kingdom’s roadways. The unwavering support of newly appointed Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz has also assured that lower-level resistance to the ATVAM program and/or lack of cooperation in its’ implementation is resolved.

In spite of the aforementioned proactive support, there has been serious resistance by a fraction of the public to Program traffic enforcement initiatives. The implementation and operation of enforcement systems has been negatively impacted by vandalism and arson against stationary enforcement equipment. Mobile speed enforcement vans and, in some instances their operators, have also been subjected to attacks. These instances of anti-social behavior are far in excess of the experience in Western countries and indicative of the magnitude and impact of introducing this program in Saudi Arabia. The Traffic Police and other enforcement and security agencies are cooperatively addressing the issue of damage being inflicted on Program equipment and personnel. Another key feature in resolving this phenomenon is stepped-up public awareness efforts to inform the population of the significant contribution these systems are making to their quality of life.

Bureaucracy: By Western standards, ATVAM program implementation is, in some instances, excruciatingly bureaucratic and time-consuming. Two major obstacles have been the timely acquisition of civil construction permits and the re-engineering (for purpose of standardization) of roadways and intersections necessary to install enforcement and traffic management systems. An initiative has been tendered by the Central Region Investor to provide a single, “umbrella” permit for approved Program sites. It is currently under consideration and its implementation would dramatically accelerate implementation. In the Central Region, the problem of timely re-engineering of sites so that they are ready for installation of ATVAM systems has been, at least partially, resolved by the Investor executing the re-engineering task. This instance is an example of direct Investor interest in Program success as discussed above.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
a. Financial
- Partnership between MoI and the investors to finance the law enforcement part
- The investors were committed to invest part of the revenue in the ITS part
b. Technical
The ATVAM ITS Program is implementing state-of-art technology for both enforcement and traffic management. Technologies include vehicle detection using lasers, in-ground magnetic fields, and video. As well, “smart” traffic controllers are being implemented to provide “green wave” and adaptive control scenarios for traffic managers. Use of LED technology in traffic signal heads and variable message signs is providing quality output, high reliability, reduced maintenance, and low power consumption.
c. Human Resources
ATVAM Investors have assembled very capable implementation and operations teams comprising talented personnel from local (Saudi) companies augmented by U.S. and European companies. The ATVAM program has, coincidentally, been very beneficial in providing skill training and employment to young Saudi candidates. The Central Region Investor, for example, has created positions for more than 250 Saudi nationals.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
It is believed that the ATVAM program is sustainable in the long-term as operating income is generated through fines imposed on traffic violators. Properly managed and maintained traffic photo enforcement systems traditionally are self-sustaining. Even as the Program registers success and safe driving behavior becomes the norm, enforcement systems generally capture enough violations to cover their operation and maintenance or, they can be re-deployed to areas requiring additional enforcement attention.

The enforcement portion of the ATVAM program is structured as a BOT (Build, Operate, and Transfer) business model. At the end of the scheduled concession period, the government can put the Program up for re-bid and continued operation by Investor(s) or, the Investors will transfer the enforcement systems to the government along with the appropriate training for the government to operate and maintain the systems.

While the Investor funded and operated enforcement systems support the initial installation of the Phase 2 traffic management systems and their maintenance for the duration of the concession period, post-concession operation and maintenance of traffic management systems will pass to the government absent a renewal of services from the Investor.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The initiative aims directly at the improvement of the traffic situation for better gains and services for the general population. It further aims to reduce loss of productivity; fatality rates associated with traffic violations in society and improve government public services in the community. Hence, the following benefits were in mind when this initiative was introduced by MOI:
A. Immediate, dramatic, and continuing improvement in road safety. With Phase I (Traffic Enforcement) Mobile Speed, Fixed Speed and Red Light photo enforcement subsystems were deployed and the percent of violating vehicles to total number vehicles observed on the roads had dropped precipitously from 32% at start of speed enforcement to approximately 2.5% today, a figure that could not be ignored or overlooked. This reduction in traffic violations is complemented by a 15.8% reduction in traffic accidents and 31.4% reduction in traffic fatalities during the same time period. Again, these figures are extremely encouraging and fulfilling. These hard enforcement statistics are supplemented by written testimonials from medical trauma centers praising the ATVAM program as evidenced by significant reduction in auto-related medical cases.
B. Introduction of equity for all members of the driving public. In a culture steeped in traditional norms, the ATVAM program traffic enforcement represents a paradigm shift. Specifically, the elaborate set of socially accepted transaction behaviors—based on rank, influence, heritage, gender and “connections”—that traditionally served as a “social lubricant” and were not now in line with a modern Nation’s strong commitment to equality, government-accessibility, improved quality of public service delivery and transparency. Under the uncompromising direction of Program's Director traffic violations are captured, processed, citations are issued and penalties are collected under rigidly enforced guidelines. All drivers from every walk of life are treated equally under the program, including, but not limited to traffic officers themselves, VIPs, etc. This reflects a high sense of transparency and fairness in the application of the new traffic laws system. MOI knew this was an essential element for public acceptance in order to establish a fair treatment and purely applied public service that suits and benefits all members of the society.
C. Introduction of Transparency. Violation Capture and Citation Issuance have been designed and implemented to provide irrefutable and tamper-proof photographic evidence of a driver’s violation and to eliminate discretionary enforcement by Traffic Police. A process has been implemented to accommodate drivers wishing to challenge their violations. At their request, drivers may see photo evidence of their violations.
• Public Awareness and Education of the public with regard to the necessity of the Program and the success of the Program in achieving the objectives of public safety and quality of life. Program must be clearly defined and supported with data and examples that the driving public can understand and relate to their daily lives. This communication with the public must be an ongoing dialogue for the life of the Program.

• Technology that is used with great success in other parts of the world can not necessarily be “transplanted” in Saudi Arabia. It may need to be modified or optimized to be effective in the harsh climate and unique driving culture inherent in the Kingdom.

• Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) contracts must be critically scrutinized and every clause amply clarified to the common understanding of all parties. This must be complemented by a very clearly understood mechanism for implementing changes in scope that may be requested by a contract signatory.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Min. of Interior
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Abdulrahman Almogbel
Title:   Brigadier General  
Telephone/ Fax:   +966 14414221 / +966 14421606
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   P.O. Box 56269
Postal Code:   11554
City:   Riyadh
State/Province:   Riyadh
Country:   Saudi Arabia

          Go Back

Print friendly Page