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Traffic Laws That Never Click

By Vision Reporter

Added 1st June 2006 03:00 AM

As the problem with the traffic regulations, Ugandans or the law enforcers? Uganda is the only country I know where it is cool for authorities to pick on laws, throw them at the public in a frenzied one-week of enforcement and then months after, seem to care less who abides.

As the problem with the traffic regulations, Ugandans or the law enforcers? Uganda is the only country I know where it is cool for authorities to pick on laws, throw them at the public in a frenzied one-week of enforcement and then months after, seem to care less who abides.

By Raphael Okello

As the problem with the traffic regulations, Ugandans or the law enforcers? Uganda is the only country I know where it is cool for authorities to pick on laws, throw them at the public in a frenzied one-week of enforcement and then months after, seem to care less who abides.

“We now have the capacity to enforce the measures straight off. Anyone found breaching traffic regulations will be fined on spot,” Wilson Ahimbisibwe, traffic and road safety chief warned in June 2004, after a series of ‘revised traffic and road safety rules were passed.

Let’s take a look at how these revised regulations are doing on the road, some of which were passed in 2002.

The seatbelt
Kampala was thrown in a mess. Traffic policemen were uncompromising as they gleefully threw hundreds of passengers found in violation of the seatbelt law, behind bars. Taxis without seatbelts were impounded after drivers had scampered off in fright. That morning, more than 150 passengers and drivers were arrested and convicted for not using seatbelts. The succeeding weeks turned passengers into nervous-wrecks. Whoever had forgotten to strap him/herself in seatbelts went into epileptic frenzy at the sight of a traffic officer standing by the roadside. Yet as time passed by, passengers started pretending to be strapping the belt. They eventually abandoned the theatrics after realising that the very traffic officers, who once made arrests, do not bother strapping in! Now, the seatbelt law, I think, applies only to drivers!

The helmet comedy
In my opinion, the most comic regulation of them all: “All motorcyclists and their passengers must wear helmets,” John Nasasira, the minister of works, transport and communication, sternly said in June, 2004, of the law that supposedly took effect in July the same year. About cyclists wearing helmets? Now that was revised. But passengers too! Not in the little bit revised. With all due respect, it was not thought through even for a second. All its good intentions notwithstanding, to suggest that passengers share helmets was unhealthy. It is akin to sharing an underwear. Or did you expect everyone intending to use a boda boda to move about in town with a helmet? Since passengers, including traffic officers, have not bothered to wear helmets (which are never provided by the cyclists anyway) and no arrests have been made, we assume you came to your senses and unrevised the law.

Cyclists’ reflective clothing
But on the other hand, I thought there was sense when Nasasira demanded that “all cyclists must wear bright or light-coloured and reflective clothing.” So, what happened? It’s coming close to a year now and the Police has not made any arrests. Psyche them up to begin the customary one-week’s apprehension, motorists are really finding it hard to distinguish cyclists.

The mobile phone fuss
“No driver or supervisor of a learner driver shall use a handheld mobile phone or any other communication equipment while driving or when the vehicle is in motion,” Charles Muganzi, the permanent secretary ministry of works roared at all motorists. Well, Mr. Muganzi, since you contributed to this accident-reducing law, have you cared to count how many drivers are phone-conferencing while driving? It should also interest your colleague, Nathan Byanyima (c/person of committee) that drivers are not even on hands-free, a gadget, which if Nasasira had not defended, Byanyima had suggested “should be done away with” since in his wisdom, “they make drivers loose concentration.” Byanyima ought to have apologised for his irrational suggestion. But no, instead of spending time on apologies, he switched attention to another revised regulation, of course, with all the usual good intentions. “Speed governors should also be quickly installed in public service vehicles,” he said.

The speed governors!
Yet again, in true Ugandan traffic law enforcement tradition, the speed governor thing seems to be causing a lot of excitement among the traffic officers. Cars without them are being impounded; drivers are being arrested for failing to pay on-spot fines. The Police are making arrests. And who can blame them? It is a brand new law, whose significance calls for urgent implementation. But we can all predict what is going to happen a couple of months down our dusty roads. Speed governors? My toes!
The following never saw light of day:

Public Service Van drivers must be more than 28 years
What was that all about? Yes, I know in July 2002, Andruale Awuzu, the state minister for works in charge of transport.
argued so coherently that “drivers below 18 years are young and not reasonable” compared to drivers above 28 who “have seen life, they are responsible and reasonable” so are less likely to cause accidents! How the hell did you work that out sir? I guess you never really did at all, that is why we still have ‘young and not reasonable’ PSV drivers fidgeting to cause accidents. And even if you had worked it out, the track record proves that we would have PSV drivers below the age of 28 anyhow.

Stop the hooting!
God knows that was never going to work out no matter how sustained the arrests would have been.

Training drivers
“We (ministry of works, transport and communication) cannot accept this madness on our roads anymore. Starting early next month (November 2002), we shall train instructors who will train drivers on using roads. Whether you want it or not, every driver has to pass through our instructors both public and private or company vehicles,” warned Awuzu.
Where are these instructors? At least none of my friends has gone through them, but they are all happily driving past traffic officers.

Traffic Laws That Never Click

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