Capital FM (Nairobi)

Kenya: Court Rejects MPs' Bid to Suspend Traffic Laws

The High Court on Monday rejected a request by two Members of Parliament and a matatu driver to temporarily stop the implementation of the new traffic laws.

Justice David Majanja said the laws were properly passed by Parliament and signed into law by the president.

Lawyer Evans Ondieki appearing for Makadara MP Gidion Mbuvi, aka Mike Sonko, Ferdinand Waititu of Embakasi and driver Brian Gakere said that implementation of the new provisions in the Traffic Act had caused untold pain to commuters since Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operators went on strike protesting the laws.

"Some people could not make it to work today, because this strike is not only in Nairobi but it national. No one should be allowed to undergo such pain," he said.

He argued that the law was discriminatory as it targeted only drivers yet the transport sector has other players such as the operators, commuters and road users.

"A temporary injunction will provide time for consultation to see if there can be consensus and see if there could be a review of the law," Ondieki argued.

The lawyer said that raising huge fines was a challenge for motorists caught overlapping, obstructing, driving on pavements or through a petrol station, especially drivers in the PSV sector who earn about Sh500 a day.

He argued that government departments such as the Ministry of Roads and the City Council of Nairobi had not taken the necessary measures such as marking designated bus stages and other road postings to enable the drivers do their jobs properly.

"Implementation of the law is supposed to be a natural process, it cannot come as an event," he stated.

John Khaminwa who is appearing as a friend of the court said that the judicial advocacy system had been paralysed as there were no office staff and messengers to convey crucial documents to and from the courts.

"It undermines the judicial movement; we don't have messengers, photocopiers in our offices. The system of advocacy has been paralysed, we are not able to assist the court as we should," said Khaminwa.

The new traffic regulations came into effect on Saturday and matatu operators within the city and across the country remained opposed to them and paralysing public transport.

Scores of public service vehicles have been seen parked on the roadsides and hundreds of commuters were forced to use alternative means or walk to their places of work.

Matatu operators have complained that the rules are punitive and are not aimed at controlling traffic or reducing road carnage. The operators argue that the laws spell heavy fines that will affect the matatu business negatively.

The operators have also said the rules are an avenue for traffic police officers to collect more bribes rather than enforcing the laws without harassment.

The laws came to effect on Saturday and bear heavy penalties and lengthy prison terms for offenders.

According to the new traffic laws, a motorist caught overlapping, obstructing, driving on pavements or through a petrol station will be fined between Sh100,000 and Sh300,000 or three months in jail or both.

Speeding beyond the prescribed limits will attract a fine of Sh10,000 or three months in jail or both. A penalty of Sh500,000 or 10 years imprisonment or both will be slapped against a motorist caught driving carelessly.

The new traffics rules are tougher on careless driving causing death as this will attract life imprisonment as the new rules treat this as murder.

The new rules recommend a fine of Sh500,000 or 10 years in jail or both for driving while drunk.

The new rules also have a medical requirement as drivers will be required to undergo a mandatory eye test every three years for licensed driver and if one fails the test the license is withdrawn.

The new rules that came into force last Saturday are not only meant for Public Service Vehicles but all motorists and pedestrians.

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