Interior minister Ziyad Baroud has made road safety one of his main battles, getting the French gendarmes to teach traffic regulations to their Lebanese counterparts, making the seatbelt mandatory and fining drivers speaking on mobile phones.

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It took the death of 17-year-old Talal Kassem, a prominent Lebanese banker’s grandson run over by a speeding car on his way to school, to get the Lebanese to demand more safety on their notoriously dangerous roads. An arena for local bravado, highways are often high jacked by would-be race drivers. Lebanese have always laughed about the perils of driving here but the jokes have now gone sour. In October, five people including two children were killed in car accidents in just one day. Annual statistics from the Youth Association for Social Awareness (YASA) show 13,000 people were injured and more than 900 died on the road in 2009. For a country of 4 million, these are significant numbers.

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