What traffic offenses cost on Ugandan roads

Driving while using your mobile phone attracts a fine of Shs2m, imprisonment or both.  Photo/courtesy

What you need to know:

As the year starts, it is important to remind ourselves of the most important aspect of driving; the traffic laws. Following these will not only keep you safe on the road, but it will also protect other road users.

Driving is one of most dangerous things you will ever do. Drivers put themselves and others at risk every time they get behind the wheel of their vehicle. The dangers increase when drivers fail to following traffic laws such as drinking and driving, speeding or texting while driving their vehicle. You must follow traffic laws and demonstrate your ability to drive safely and cautiously on the roads.

Traffic laws are designed by the Ministry of Transport and Works alongside other stakeholders such as Uganda Police (traffic department), and Uganda National Roads Authority and applied for your safety. Traffic laws may be enforced by tickets, fines and even jail time for major violations such has driving under the influence.

Road safety is important and by knowing the rules and practising good driving skills, you help play a vital role in avoiding a crash.

Do not drive without a driver’s licence

A driver’s licence is one’s permission from the authorities to drive around the country. It is, therefore, illegal to drive without one. If you do not have a driver’s license or it has expired, visit the Uganda Driver Licencing System website or their offices near the railway station on Nasser Road in Kampala for guidance on renewing your permit.

According to the amended traffic law of 2020, Section 42, a driving licence shall be valid for 12 months, three or five years from the date of issue.

 Also, a person whose driving licence has for any reason not been renewed within a period of two years from the date of expiry, shall, on application for renewal, undergo theory and practical tests before the licence can be renewed. They are allowed to retain the group of motor vehicles endorsed in their original driving licence.

Driving without a driver’s license or failure to renew an expired license will attract a fine of between Shs600,000 and Shs1m. One can also be imprisoned for six months.

Like other countries in the world, driving in Uganda also has minimum age and you can drive a vehicle as long as you are 18 years and above. If you are planning to hire a car for your tour, then you should be 23 years and must have a driver licence valid for about two years.

Do not overlap

While overlapping is common on our roads, Rogers Kawuma Nsereko, the Kampala Metropolitan traffic commander, says it is against the law and one cannot claim innocence after creating a second or third lane where it is not supposed to be.

“This is termed as inconsiderate use of a motor vehicle and attracts a penalty of Shs100,000. Another scenario is overlapping on the left or road shoulders, which also attracts a fine of Shs100,000,” he says.

In Uganda, just like most Commonwealth countries, all motorists must drive on the right-hand side of the road. Doing otherwise goes against traffic laws.

Do not drive under the influence

Do not drive when you are drunk or under influence of drugs. This is illegal and the accepted alcohol level is 0.08 percent.  Driving under the influence of alcohol poses a high risk of road accidents. If one is caught driving under the influence of say alcohol or drugs, they are fined between Shs300,000 and Shs1.2m or imprisonment of between six months and two years.

DMCs are not allowed

Driving a car in dangerous mechanical condition (DMC) is as good as signing a death sentence. This could be a car that pollutes the air owing to poor fuel combustion. It could also be a car with faults such as a malfunctioning gearbox. Driving such a car attracts a fine of Shs300,000 or imprisonment for two years.

Wait at zebra crossings

Zebra crossings are meant to help pedestrians cross busy roads. According to Nsereko, blocking the zebra crossing is referred to as obstructing pedestrian facilities and attracts a fine of Shs100,000.

Do not park in the road

Some of the roads on Uganda’s road network are narrow. Therefore, it is important that motorists avoid blocking traffic by either driving recklessly parking in the road or where one is not supposed to park. For example, when a vehicle parks in a space for bicycles, they will a attract a penalty of Shs100,000.

Drive within the speed limit

Different roads have different speed limits. For example, on paved rural roads, it is 100km/hr for motorcycles and saloon cars while it is 80km/hr on gravel. For vans, pickups, and trucks carrying less than 3,500kgs, the speed limit is 80km/hr on paved rural roads and 60 km/hr on gravel roads. All cars are not expected to exceed 50km/hr in built areas (towns). The Entebbe Expressway and Kampala Northern bypass have a speed limit of 80km/hr. These speed limits must be followed in order to avoid accidents.

Nsereko says motorists who break this law will be fined Shs200,000. 

Do not drive an unlicensed vehicle

Failure to drive a licenced or insured car attracts a fine of between Shs200,000 and Shs600,000 or imprisonment for one or two years.

Do not use a phone while driving

When one is caught using a phone while driving, they will pay a fine of Shs2m or be imprisoned for up to one year or both.

Wearing a seatbelt

Drivers and all passengers must be on seat belts at all times. In most cases, passengers and tend to ignore this rule but it doesn’t cost you much besides some little energy to put on your seat belt. Your seat belt is of great help the fact that it will safeguard you in case of accidents.

Way forward

According to the World Health Organisation, road traffic injuries can be prevented. Governments need to take action to address road safety in a holistic manner. This requires involvement from multiple sectors such as transport, police, health, education, and actions that address the safety of roads, vehicles, and road users.

Effective interventions include designing safer infrastructure and incorporating road safety features into land-use and transport planning, improving the safety features of vehicles; enhancing post-crash care for victims of road traffic crashes; setting and enforcing laws relating to key risks, and raising public awareness.


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