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Speedy drivers and dangerous road conditions are exasperating. However, last November, hope came in the form of speed radars. The radars were strategically placed around the country, with a 50,000 LL fine per violation. Along with this development came a phone application, Trapster, that is proving popular among stubborn drivers that refuse to slow down.

Trapster can be downloaded for free on to any smartphone worldwide. At the time of writing, according to Trapster.com, there are 10,576335 users worldwide and 3,877,326 traps have been reported. Users that see a road trap, checkpoint, hazard, or anything other drivers would like to avoid, merely touch the screen to report it. Trapster rates the credibility of the traps according to the number of users that report the same one. The application has pop-ups and voice alerts to notify drivers before approaching said “trap”.

A tool like Trapster is problematic in Lebanon. The application relies mostly on users crowd-sourcing the traps using an internet connection on their phone. Due to the slow internet service here, by the time a user has marked a trap and Trapster has made it available to other users, the trap could easily have been moved.

Parliamentarian Mohammad Qabbani announced a law last year that anyone caught with a mobile application to detect radar traps would be fined three million Lebanese Pounds. It may be true that users use Trapster in order to detect radars beforehand and slow down, but isn’t that what the radars aim to do anyway? Unless the real aim of these radars is not for public safety, that is. In the United States, most law officials tend not to mind the application. The executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, Bill Johnson, explained on a forum, “If someone slows down because of [Trapster], it’s accomplishing the same goal of trying to get people to obey the speed limit.” Gabriel Medrano, from the Department of Public Safety in Texas, added, “It’s not hurting our job for public safety … it is actually helping.” Could it be that the radars and the law against the application are financially motivated?

On November 9, 2010, the Internal Security Forces announced that within 24 hours of activating the speed radars, they had issued 5,000 tickets. That constitutes 250,000,000 LL for the government. Add to that the fines they collect from catching Trapster users and it may shed some light on the reasons for the law.

This article was previously published in Hibr Lubnani.