In a move to enhance sobriety on the Kenyan roads, the Trafﬁc (Amendment) Bill 2012 has set harsh penalties for those motorists who break traffic rules and lead to accidents.
Matatu drivers and conductors
The proposed law first seeks to have matatu drivers and their conductors permanently employed with the possession of certificates of good conduct top on the list.
Those drivers found driving under the inﬂuence of alcohol risk facing a 10 year jail term or a Ksh. 1 Million fine or both while those found overspeeding will be fined Ksh. 20,000 or face a three month jail term or both.
Those drivers who are notorious for driving through petrol stations or overlap other vehicles by driving through pavements in a bid to beat traffic jams could be fined Ksh. 30,000 or be jailed for three months or both.
Any driver found to have caused an accident that led to deaths will be sentenced to life imprisonment as the charges leveled against him will be treated same as murder.
Matatu drivers will also be required to undergo a compulsory testing after every two years to ascertain their competence. Those who do not meet the requirements could be put behind bars for a year or fined Ksh10,000 or both.
A mandatory eye test will also be done on all drivers after every three years, with those who fail the test losing their driving licenses and the right to drive.
There has been a suggestion that the famous Michuki laws that were put in place by the late John Michuki during his time as the Minister for Transport be incorporated into the bill. This could see the drivers and conductors of a public service vehicle revisit their lockers to get their uniforms which were a must wear during those days.
A special badge that would be supplied by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles at a fee will be complete the uniform.
Everyone who owns a motor vehicle will be required to submit his vehicle registration number to Kenya Revenue Authority before completing the sale. This is meant to curb car theft that is rampant especially in the major cities in the country.
Only one passenger will be carried on a motorcycle. Both the passenger and the taxi operator must be in a reflective gear and helmet to avoid a Ksh.10,000 fine or a one year prison term or both.
As a way of reducing corruption and bribery, road blocks will only be mounted in designated areas as will be advised by the Inspector General.
The entire police force will be responsible for enforcing the traffic rules hence declaring the traffic police department defunct.
More consultation and research is paramount
However, according to Matatu Owners Association Chairman, Mr. Simon Kimutai, some of the proposals of the Bill for instance removing traffic police officers and creating room for any officer to inspect vehicles is a serious flaw. “Currently officers bribe to join the traffic department. How will the situation be if all of them are allowed to come to the road?" he said.
He advised Gem MP and Government Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo, who is the sponsor of the bill, to carry out further research in other countries in order to seal the various loopholes that are evident in the bill stating that its current version will enhance bribery as it doesn’t clearly outline the mechanism that would be used to regulate police operation as well as ensure motorists don’t oblige to paying the bribes that are usually less that the hefty fines.
"The Bill gives all police officers the powers to act as traffic police officers. What this means is that we will have police officers swarming our roads and looking for bribes." he said.
Jakoyo Midiwo defended the draft law stating that, "unless we do something to control our roads, too many people will continue losing lives."
He urged Kenyans to give their suggestions on the bill and how it could be improved to enhance road safety in the country.
Traffic Commandant Joseph ole Tito on his part termed as “strange” the proposal in the bill to do away with the Traffic Department saying that not all officers can handle traffic matters.
He insisted that "Traffic Department is crucial and we hope even his colleagues will reject the move to scrap it.”
Midiwo’s reason behind the idea to scrap off the department was that incase of accidents, regular police have to wait for traffic police to come and sort out the matter something that mostly inconveniences other road users. He insists that the police should be trained to handle all crimes and not be tied to specific departmental roles.
The bill, if passed by parliament, could see Kenya join the United Arab Emirate (UAE) as one of the few countries with the harshest traffic laws in the world.
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