In a move that has generated varied responses, President Yoweri Museveni has given his assent to the Traffic and Road Safety Act 1998 (Amendment, 2023), which significantly raises the penalty for speeding from Shs 200,000 to Shs 2 million.
Under the new amendment, fines for speed violations have been increased from ten currency points (equivalent to Shs 200,000) to a hundred currency points (equivalent to Shs 2 million). Each currency point is valued at Shs 20,000.
According to clause (3) of the amendment, “A person who fails to comply with a speed limit set…commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding one hundred currency points or imprisonment not exceeding three years or both.”
While road safety experts and advocates believe that the measure will help reduce the number of road accidents that claim an average of 12 Ugandan lives daily, motorists have voiced their opposition to the steep hike in penalties. Fred Kiapi, the programs manager at Hope for Victims of Road Traffic Accidents (HOVITA), praised the timely nature of the law but expressed concerns about its implementation, fearing that enforcers may exploit it as a means to make money.
Siraje Mutyaba, a leader of the Public Transporters Association in Kampala Central, argued that the new law would have no impact, as police officers would instead use it as an opportunity to extort more money from drivers.
Mutyaba claimed that traffic police officers had previously solicited bribes ranging from Shs 50,000 to 100,000 for a speed penalty of Shs 200,000, and with the increase in penalties, the bribe fee could soar up to Shs 500,000.
Mutyaba emphasized that while speed does contribute to fatalities and injuries, government and security officials are often the primary violators, sometimes forcing other road users off the road.
On the other hand, Fred Tumwine Nkuruho, the chairman of Road Safety Advocacy Coalition Uganda (ROSACU), expressed satisfaction with the higher fines for speed violations, as he believes it will encourage drivers to adhere to the prescribed limits.
Tumwine, a road safety advocate, cited studies showing that driving beyond the recommended speed is a significant cause of fatal and severe crashes on Ugandan roads.
He stated, “I support it because from our analysis speed is the major cause of crashes. My worry is on the enforcement. If the government can enforce it, there will be a big reduction in crashes and injuries and death tremendously.”
The recent amendments grant the minister the authority to prescribe speed limits for all public roads or sections thereof through regulations.
The minister can also establish temporary maximum speed limits for different classes or types of motor vehicles, trailers, or engineering plant on specific road segments using statutory orders.
Currently, the police enforce a maximum speed limit of 30km/h in built-up and busy areas, while on highways, drivers are expected to stay within 70km/h.
However, HOVITA is spearheading a campaign to enforce a 30km/h speed limit in all school zones. Traffic and road safety data from 2022 revealed that 4,534 individuals lost their lives on Ugandan roads, equivalent to an average of 12 deaths per day.
Furthermore, 42 people sustained life-threatening injuries, resulting in substantial treatment costs, and many victims were left confined to wheelchairs.