What you need to know:
While most of us would not ordinarily dare break the law, driving offences are common and can land even the most law-abiding people in hot water
On September 10, 2018 while driving through Ndeeba, a Kampala suburb at 11am, Ibrahim Masereka was issued an express penalty ticket for not wearing a seatbelt. The ticket came with a fine of Shs80,000.
Richard Agaba was also issued an express penalty ticket of Shs100,000 on the Masaka-Mbarara Highway at Kyazanga for overtaking at a wrong spot. Much as he tried to argue his innocence, Agaba says his plea fell on deaf ears because the traffic officer’s concern was that Agaba had overtaken in a corner.
For clarity, traffic offences for which you are penalised under the express penalty scheme (EPS) have the ticket number, the date and time the offence was committed, the driver’s name, their permit or license number, place, motor vehicle registration plates, car make and model, the issuing traffic officer’s name and their identification number. The ticket also has the amount, surcharge in case you have gone beyond the 28 recommended days for payment and a detailed description of the offence. It also has a disclaimer that you have a right to stand trial in case you do not want to pay the fine or penalty.
Rogers Kawuma Nsereko, the Kampala Metropolitan traffic commander, says most traffic offences are deliberate, which is a road safety challenge.
Nsereko argues that there is no way one can claim innocence after creating a second or third lane where everyone else is driving in one lane.
“This is termed as inconsiderate use of a motor vehicle and attracts a penalty of Shs100,000. Overlapping on the left or road shoulders also earns you a fine of Shs100,000,” Nsereko explains.
Driving without a valid license
It is also common to drive without a valid driving license, or driving a vehicle that is not permitted by the license you are carrying. For instance, you could drive a truck when you have a class B license that allows you to drive smaller vehicles such as a Toyota Premio. This will attract a penalty of Shs100,000.
A dangerous mechanical condition vehicle (DMC) can mean anything. You could have a secondhand car from the bond or even a brand new vehicle whose head or rear lights are defunct. A DMC can also be a vehicle whose tyres do not have treads or one with defunct wipers. Looks are deceptive and traffic officers do what they know best and charge you according to the offence committed.
Blocking zebra crossings
This is considered obstruction of pedestrian facilities. It also attracts a charge of Shs100,000. Also, because of narrow roads, if you park and block traffic, you will be charged for traffic obstruction. Apart from blocking traffic, you will also be charged Shs100,000 for blocking or parking in spaces such as bicycle lanes such as those along Archer Road and the turn from Jinja Road police station towards Kololo.
“You are expected to interpret road signs and language. If I charge you for parking in a bicycle lane, you will not challenge me anywhere because I will have evidence,” Nsereko says.
Nsereko emphasises that driving beyond the prescribed speed limit attracts a penalty of Shs200,000 even though most times motorists feign ignorance about speed limits.
For instance, the maximum speed in residential areas was revised from 50km/hr to 30km/hr. This is because in case of an accident while driving at 50km/hr, one can either severely injure or kill a pedestrian or any other road user.
This is in agreement to the second United Nations Decade of Action 2021-2030, to which Uganda is signatory that calls for reduction of speed in built up areas to 30km/hr. The Entebbe expressway has a speed limit of 80km/hr and so does the Kampala Northern bypass.
Driving under the influence
Traffic police has been vigilant in the fight against drunk-driving and a number of people have fallen victims.
The campaign, nicknamed Kawunyemu, was launched in 2014 and has been running since at certain intervals of the year on different roads within and beyond Kampala.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is punishable under the Traffic and Road Safety Regulations with a penalty of between Shs300,000 and Shs1.2m or imprisonment of between six months and two years.
Using an unlicensed vehicle
According to Nsereko, this is one of the most popular traffic offences that cuts across the country.
“Many motorists drive unlicensed or non-insured cars, which is a serious offence under the traffic guidelines,” he says.
This offence attracts a cash fine of between Shs200,000 and Shs600,000 or imprisonment of between one and two years.