By Andrew Irumba
The Ministry of Works and Transport, headed by Gen. Katumba Wamala, has introduced new traffic laws through parliament and has already been assented to by President Museveni. The new laws will regulate all motorists on Uganda’s roads who include public transport operators, owners of private vehicles, motorcycles and other locomotives.
The new laws, which are enshrined in the Traffic and Road Safety Act, 1998 (Amended) Act, 2020 were communicated in a memo issued by the Ministry of Works and Transport while launching them on 27 May, 2020 at the Ministry Headquarters last week.
In the new laws, a taxi tout (conductor) who makes noise (shouts) while trying to mobilize possible passengers, on conviction will be fined Sshs6m, up from shs300,000/-. The same new law is now changing from calling it a ‘driving permit’ to a ‘driving License’, and will now be on International standards, meaning you don’t have to have another license while driving in another country, as long as your license is still valid.
Even when the shs300,000/= fine for ‘shouting’ touts has been a living law, it has just been in the good records of the law but has not been visibly enforced.
Below Are Some Of The Changes In The New Law;
- Creation of the Office of Chief Licensing Officer, whose mandate is to handle vehicle licensing and registration.
- Driving Permits renamed ‘Driving License’ and will be eligible to be used globally. The name change is to harmonize with international standards and achieve a uniformity.
- The license will be renewed after 5 years and not 3 as previously required. Drivers whose permits have gone 3 years without renewal will have to reapply for a permit afresh.
- Increased penalty for failing to notify of change of ownership of one’s vehicle within 14 days after sale. Fine of UGx6m or imprisonment for 6 months.
- Minister may enter into an agreement with a private party, in accordance with the Public Private Partnership Act, 2015 to undertake driver testing on behalf of government to issue driving licenses.
- Increased penalty for driving schools operating without a valid license, from UGx1m to UGx.2m
- Licensing and regulation of online ride hailing companies such as Uber and Bolt.
- Boda-bodas to obtain Class M-Commercial Motorcycles as a new class of operator vehicle licenses.
- Motor vehicles of 2 years and above not permitted on the road without a certificate of fitness
- It is an offence to dodge paying your taxi fare, on demand from the operator; or to willfully damage a public service vehicle
- Touting is prohibited (where a conductor makes noise in order to attract attention of a possible passenger). Fine increased from UGx.300,000 to UGx.6m.
- In organizing public transport, Minister may require of owners of public service vehicles to form SACCOS, cooperatives, companies or a registered Association.
- Requirement of physical possession of the driving or learners license of motor vehicle or trailer at all times unlike previously where it could be produced in forty eight hours.
- Requirement of road users to render assistance to accident victims unlike under the old law where they duty lay on drivers.
- A person that has interest in a motor vehicle through a lease, security, loan to register the interest under the Security Interest in Movable Property Act.
- Importation of Non-standard motor vehicle, trailer but with a requirement that the Chief Licensing Officer has approved.
- Reckless driving is defined to help remove any ambiguity in enforcement.
- Some penalties and fines enhanced like possession of motor vehicles without registration, reckless driving that causes death, drink-driving.
- An Accident victim shall have access to medical treatment at a hospital, clinic or other health facility without having to pay first until he/ she stabilizes.
- Cars that are above the age of two years from the year of manufacture shall not be permitted on the road without a certificate of fitness as issued by the line Minister.
Meanwhile, many of the sampled touts and drivers by this reporter cast doubts on the spirit of such laws wondering whether the whole objective was purely ‘financial gain’. “a conductor, who has never even touched shs6m at once in his entire life you now tell him to pay a fine of shs6m, why don’t ‘they’ simply separate roads for poor from the rich of this world so that the poor can also move?” a tout at Wandegeya stage found playing cards said.