The tough warning last week by Works and Transport minister that reckless drivers will now be tracked and their driving permits cancelled is commendable. Desirable would also be the introduction of removing points from a driver’s permit.
These proposed penalties by transport minister Gen Katumba Wamala for motoring offences on our roads should be quickly followed through and rigorously enforced to reduce deaths on our roads.
We also hope errant motorist will not be let off lightly again, but are served with stringent on-the-spot fines, their record of traffic offences kept in the drivers’ databases, are prosecuted, and disqualified for a good number of years from driving until proven fit to drive again. With our centralised and interlinked National ID and drivers’ databases, this should be feasible.
Previously, our lax enforcement of the Traffic and Road Safety Act, 1998, had failed to stop the country’s unacceptably high deaths on the road of 29 Ugandans for every 100,000 of our population as per 2016 Police Road Traffic and Safety Report.
These grim figures seem to fit into the chilling forecast by Arrive Alive Uganda, which works to lower road traffic fatalities, and had estimated in 2014 that more than 10,000 people would die on our roads by close of 2019.
The lack of deterrent penalties had emboldened even motorists who are at faults in accidents, because they knew they would ride away from their traffic crimes without any tough penalties and consequences.
But this new steps should, as Gen Katumba rightly observed, check the high number of accidents and deaths on our roads. This would, therefore, force errant motorists to be more thoughtful for fear of awful consequences.
They are more likely to pay due care and attention so as to avoid mistakes, largely from human errors, and arising from reckless driving, speeding, making illegal turns, and not making a complete stop.
This tough resolve by the minister should be similarly be applied to enforce the new Traffic and Road Safety (Amendment) Bill 2019, which is pending assent by the President. Laudably, the revised set of new traffic laws have revised upwards penalties for drunken-driving from Shs300,000 to Shs6m and increased sentences for errant motorists from six months to up to three years.
These deterrent measures are essential for arresting the problem of road crashes and fatalities. Indeed, as noted by Ms Mary Williams Obe, the chief executive director of the UK-based Brake, an organisation that fights to end road crashes, in Kampala last week, road tragedies violently tear apart families, leave communities in shock, and victims feeling alone and abandoned.