KAMPALA, UGANDA: Road safety experts and drivers have reacted in polarised ways to the new traffic amendment which has increased traffic penalties for driving beyond the prescribed speed from 200,000 shillings up to two million shillings.
President Yoweri Museveni assented to the amendment of Article (2) of Traffic and road safety Act 1998 (Amendment, 2023) Cap 361 that provides for setting a speed limit as may be deemed necessary by the minister for works and transport.
In the 2023 Amendment, the fines have been raised from ten currency points (UGX200, 000) to a hundred currency points (UGX2M). A single currency point is worth 20000 shillings.
“A person who fails to comply with a speed limit set…commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding one hundred currency points or imprisonment not exceeding three years or both,” clause (3) reads.
The amendment has attracted mixed reactions as road safety experts and advocates have welcomed the move saying it will help to minimize road crashes that claim the lives of at least 12 lives of Ugandans every day while drivers are opposed to it.
Fred Kiapi, the programs manager at Hope for Victims of Road Traffic Accidents (HOVITA), said the law raising speed violation penalties is timely. He, however, expressed worried that it may not be properly implemented because of enforcers’ turning into a money-minting opportunity.
“In response to media reports about the new TRSA 1998 amendments (2023) that have been assented to by the President, many transport actors are worried when enforcement starts this FY 2023/202 of talk without enforcement, past experience of the EPS, corruption and long legal systems in cases where the aggrieved parties seek court redress,” Kiapi said.
Siraje Mutyaba, a leader of the public transporters association in Kampala Central, said the law will not have any impact because the police will use it to extort money from drivers.
Mutyaba said that traffic police officers have been charging them 50,000 to 100,000 shillings as a bribe for a speed penalty of 200,000 shillings for which he says with the speed fines now up to two million shillings, police will also increase their bribe fee by about 500,000 shillings.
According to Mutyaba, speed truly kills and injures many people on the roads; but the lead violators are the security and government officials who sometimes shove other users off the road.
Fred Tumwine, the chairman of Road Safety Advocacy Coalition Uganda (ROSACU) said he is happy with the increase in speed violation fines because it will make drivers restrain themselves from violating the set limits.
Tumwine said as road safety advocates they have participated in studies that have shown driving beyond the prescribed speed as one of the major causes of fatal and serious crashes on Ugandan roads.
The new amendments empower the minister through regulation to prescribe speed limits in respect of all public roads or sections of public roads. The minister may by statutory order prescribe temporary maximum speed limits for motor vehicles, trailers or engineering plant of different classes or description on any part of any road for such a period as may be specified in the order.
Police currently enforces a 50km/h speed in all built and busy areas while on highways drivers are not expected to exceed 80km/h. However, HOVITA is currently leading a campaign to enforce a 30km/h speed in all school zones.
The traffic and road safety data of 2022 shows 4,534 people on Ugandan roads which translates into 12 people per day. Additionally, 42 people sustain life threatening injuries that result into huge treatment costs, while many victims get confined in wheel chairs.