What you need to know:
Motorists must ensure that the road ahead is clear before entering the yellow box as stopping in the box is a breach of regulations.
Over the last few weeks busy traffic junctions in Kampala have had a touch of criss-cross yellow lines painted on the roads, leaving many drivers curious as to what the lines with no signage mean. Robert Kisakye, first came across the yellow lines on Parliament Avenue in Kampala City Centre a few days ago, he did not know what was expected of him.
“There is no traffic police personnel manning the point and no one seemed to know what the lines meant. I stopped and watched from a distance what other motorists were doing and I also followed suit,” Kisakye says.
Meanwhile, other road users took their curiosity to social media, taking photos and asking what purpose the lines were meant to serve. Wilfred Nahamya, learnt of the junction box from a WhatsApp group. Some members of the group had taken photos and asked similar questions about its usage.
“When I reached the junction box at Kiira Road, I did not approach it immediately. There were not many vehicles and I was not blocking traffic. I noticed that many road users had instead parked in the box waiting for the green light,” Nahamya says.
How they work
Irene Namuyiga, a road safety engineer with Kampala Capital City Authority, says the junction box, also known as the yellow box, is a road traffic control measure designed to prevent congestion and gridlock at junctions.
The junction is placed on the road to create a traffic free space that prevents gridlocks. The rule, therefore, is that motorists must ensure that the road ahead is clear before entering the yellow box as stopping in the box is a breach of regulations.
“We are introducing junction boxes to mark road spaces that should be kept free of vehicles not in motion. For instance, when a traffic light turns green but there is traffic jam where you are going, you are supposed to wait behind or outside the junction box instead of driving into it to block traffic. What normally happens is that when traffic lights turn green, you drive into the junction and wait in the available space. The other vehicles that have way and could have gone will not proceed because you have blocked them,” Namuyiga explains.
She states that the same rule applies to motorcyclists. “If the space meant for motorcycles is congested, they (motorcyclists) should wait in the lane meant for vehicles,” Namuyiga explains.
According to Namuyiga, this is a pilot project and junction boxes have so far been placed at Parliament Avenue, Kiira Road Police Station junction and at Bukoto junction on the Bukoto-Ntinda and Bukoto-Kisaasi Roads. There are also plans to roll out another 27 boxes at junctions within the Kampala Metropolitan Area.
Namuyiga says junction boxes are meant to educate, discipline and create awareness among road users by introducing order on the roads, especially those with high traffic volumes.
Box junctions were introduced in the United Kingdom (UK) in 1967, following a successful trial in London. Just like in the UK and Ireland, drivers in Uganda drive on the left and, therefore, the rule allows them to enter the box and wait when they want to turn right and are stopped from doing so only by oncoming traffic or by other vehicles waiting to turn right.
For example, at the Kiira Road junction, a driver from Bukoto heading towards Wandegeya can stop in the junction as they wait to turn onto the Kamwokya Road and are blocked by other drivers already trying to turn into the Kamwokya Road, or if they are blocked by traffic from Kamwokya trying to cross into Lugogo bypass.
However, at the same junction drivers from Bukoto trying to cross into Lugogo bypass or those from Lugogo bypass trying to cross into Bukoto must be sure that the traffic ahead is clear and they will not stop in the junction to block other road users. This is akin to a railway crossing where a driver must be sure there is enough space for their vehicle on the other side of the rail before driving onto it.
Is it enforceable?
“We are discussing fines and punishments with the concerned authorities (Traffic police and Ministry of Works and Transport) for those who will be caught misusing the boxes. After sensitising the public, the punishments will be implemented and those caught will be penalised accordingly,” Namuyiga warns.
But it begs the question of how authorities in Uganda plan to enforce a rule that requires a lot of self-discipline in a city with inherently errant road users. To date, authorities in the UK are still grappling with enforcement of the regulation more than 50 years since the introduction of the box junction.
An article on https://www.hampshirelive.new published on April 4, states that the country is enforcing a change in rules as majority drivers are still getting stuck in the junctions. The article indicates that drivers spoken to have expressed concern that they are caught in the junction at no fault of their own. Hampshire live quotes the The Mirror reporting that in 2020, Transport for London (TfL) issued 76,977 fines for ‘yellow box junction’ incidents.
You may enter a yellow box junction when your exit is clear and there is enough space on the other side of the junction for your vehicle to clear the box completely without stopping.
You can stop in a yellow box junction when turning right if you are prevented from turning by oncoming traffic, or by other vehicles waiting to turn right.
Do not simply follow the vehicle in front as it may stop and prevent your exit and do not let other drivers pressure you to enter the box when a clear exit is not available.