The New Traffic Amendment Act gazetted by the Minister for Transport, Amos Kimunya, took effect on Monday. 10 million shillings in traffic violation fines has been collected in little more than a week since the Act was gazetted.
It’s probably unsurprising then that the Act has elicited varied reactions from the public some: are in favour of it, others vehemently oppose the new traffic laws, and the more cynical see the laws as having the effect of increasing bribery.
The Act provides for steeper offenses for traffic violations. For instance driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is an offense and upon conviction one is liable to imprisonment of up to ten years or a 500,000-shilling fine or both. A similar fine and term of imprisonment is also applicable to a person drinking while driving a public service vehicle.
The Act prohibits the driving of motor vehicles on the pavement for the purposes of avoiding traffic. This offense if one is convicted of it will incur a term of imprisonment of not less than three months (so it could be more) and a fine of not less than 30,000 shillings or both.
The Act also address speeding violations, the maximum number of passengers allowed on the various kinds of public service vehicles, the weight and type of goods allowed on various types of public service vehicles. The Act provides that if any public service vehicle carries more persons, baggage or goods than it is licensed to carry, the driver, the conductor and the owner of such vehicle; shall be upon conviction liable, to a fine of up to 20,000 shillings and an additional fine of 5,000 shillings for each person in excess of the licensed capacity.
Other provisions include the requirement for owners of public service vehicles to employ at least one driver and one conductor both of who a required to be holders of certificates of good conduct issued by the relevant authority. The penalty for the contravention of this provision is a fine of 10, 000 shillings and/or imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. The violation of the requirement for all passengers to wear helmets incurs the same penalty.
Most of the violations outlined in the new traffic law are already sanctioned in law, despite this these offenses are committed with alarming regularity i.e. cars driving on pavements to avoid traffic, overloading of public service vehicles with both passengers, driving while under the influence etc. It is probably the impunity with which we break road rules and increasing incidents of road carnage that has necessitated stiffer penalties for traffic violations. But whether the new traffic laws will have the desired impact still remains to be seen.
Over the past week owners of, and public service vehicle operators have been on strike, or offering only intermittent services leaving hundreds of commuters stranded. Protestors want the law shelved for further consultation between the government and public service vehicle owners. In the meantime truck drivers have threatened to join the protest against the new laws.
What are your thoughts on the new traffic laws will the new stiffer penalties deter offenders, and reduce road carnage or are the new rules too punitive?