Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt of Travel News

Posted on December 3rd, 2012
Categories: News

I think I shall end the year as I started it,  having a good whinge about all things that inhabit our roads and the regulations that are foisted on us the motorists in this Republic of Kenya.

The new Thika super-highway is indeed a masterpiece; it’s just that no one knows how to drive on it. How should we know, we’ve never had one before – a super highway that is. The outside lane is without question the place to be. Huge trucks stagger along it at a snail’s pace, matatus head straight for it, then without signalling, head back to the inside lane to stop and pick up passengers. Just so you know, there are feeder lanes where all this should happen. Feeder lanes are meant to be one-way, aren’t they? But instead here they have been re-invented as wrong way shortcuts between super highway entry and exits.

It is a zoo out there!

No one is policing it, no one is offering advice, no one is doing anything about it, and does anyone really care? Driver education is required – we need all the help we can get. Please, Mr. Minister!

Our boys in blue now have another string to their bow with the introduction of the Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2012. In its memorandum of objects and reasons, a sort of executive summary, it seems its primary objective is to ensure that when you sell a vehicle you turn in its license plates. Failure to do so results in a Kshs. 30,000/- fine.

You also have to hand in your plates if the vehicle in question’s insurance expires – you have 30 days to do the honourable thing!

The second objective of the Bill is to ‘Enhance the penalties for various traffic offences in order to deter those offenses and consequently minimise the loss of lives on Kenyan roads’.

Speeding, or known here more accurately as Overspeeding, comes under the spotlight with some pretty serious penalties, perhaps rightly so. Enforcement has always been the issue, and this new regime in no way addresses this. With massive fines and possible loss of license, roadside fixes are most certainly going to reach new levels of ridiculousness.

Interestingly, ‘a highway authority shall cause to be placed on or near a road, traffic signs prescribing speed limits on the road’. We don’t have many of those right now, do we? So, no sign no speed limit? Hardly, but it does beg the question.

Roadblocks now require notice in a Gazette, the fine print however says ‘The Inspector-General of Police may, by notice in a Gazette, designate a place along a public road etc…’ the use of the word may opens up all sorts of interesting scenarios. Shortcuts, or in local parlance Overlapping, are defined thus: ‘In order to avoid a build-up of traffic on a road, be driven on, or through, a pavement, a pedestrian walkway or a petrol station, as the case may be’. This attracts fines of not less than 3-months imprisonment or a fine of not less than Kshs. 30,000/-, or both.

You’ll need your eyes tested to take a driving test and every time you renew your licence. The modalities of how this will happen is best left to your imagination.

Matatus come in for some pretty well deserved heavy handedness. Drink driving, if convicted, attracts prison terms of not exceeding 10 years and fines not exceeding Kshs. 500,000/-, or both.

Is there a reason why the terminology of not less and not exceeding is used almost in the same breath?

Apart from uniforms, matatus will be hammered for overloading, the fine a mighty Kshs. 20,000/-, ask no questions tell no lies, then Kshs. 5,000/- per passenger on board over the limit. Special name badges are now mandatory for drivers and conductors and will be issued by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles.

Perhaps the best idea to come out of all of this is the legislated fixed monthly salary for both driver and conductor as opposed to current commission payment system, which is loosely based on the number of trips and customers carried per day. How this will work in practice boggles the mind.

In the Traffic Act there always has been a provision for the police to issue tickets for traffic offences, in the example shown there is even on the reverse an Admission of Guilt section, which would allow you to pay a prescribed fine into court, without the necessity to attend. This we all know doesn’t happen; ‘something small’ preferred or a Police bond paid on the spot, usually in the region of Kshs. 3,000/-, but now rumoured to be Kshs. 30,000/-, accompanied with a demand to attend court first thing the next working day.

In the amended Bill, ‘The Inspector-General of the Police shall cause to be prepared a document showing the offences set out in this Act and their (sic) respective penalties, in a summary form, and the document shall be made available to all law enforcement officers for purposes of enforcing this Act’.

Just imagine being hauled over, a smiling copper presents a laminated fine schedule, akin to a menu. Added to that is that the Traffic Police are forthwith abolished – and that now all Police Officers are there to enforce all laws. Crikey, more mouths to feed!

I’ll end on a happy note – certain segments of civil society are taking the Government to court to stop this nonsense. Let’s hope they succeed, matatu strikes aside!

I wish you a happy Festive Season and a magic 2013.

Please drive carefully and obey the law…

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