9 December 2012

Uganda: Drivers' Skills, Mental Health to Be Retested

It's official. By June next year, all taxi, bus and truck drivers must return to driving schools to polish their skills and get their mental health tested, if they want to remain in their jobs, the police has said.

The new directive was issued by the ministry of Works, largely to fight the road accidents in the country which claim thousands of lives every year.

"All PSV drivers and drivers of goods vehicles are recommended to go back for re-training and re-testing in the five driving schools recognized by government [or else] they are stopped from driving," the commissioner for Traffic and Road Safety, Dr Steven Kasiima said last week.

He added: "We have started vetting bus drivers to establish their discipline, mental ability, criminal and accident records to find out if they are fit to drive PSVs or not."

The police says that once the vetting is done, anyone found unfit will not be allowed to drive PSVs, to avoid putting people's lives in danger.

"I have already instructed all the inspectors of vehicles at Naguru Testing Centre not to test any driver who is not trained from the five driving schools recognized by ministry of Works and Transport," Kasiima said.

He added, "If we don't train drivers from recognized schools, we shall have incompetent drivers who kill people on the roads through accidents."

The recognised schools are: Uganda Driving Standard Agency (UDSA), International Driving Agency (IDA), Automobile Association of Uganda (AAU), Prestige Driving School, and Dembe Driving School. Ronald Amanyire, the acting principal inspector of vehicles, said the whole exercise of re-testing PSV drivers would cost the government about Shs 1.5bn annually for a period of two to three years.

Those who pass the tests, especially Public Service Vehicle (PSV) drivers will get badges for easy identification. The badges will bear Police contacts in case one has to report bad driving.

"We shall also withdraw the badges from drivers who commit traffic offences like fatal accidents, drink driving and reckless driving," Amanyire said.

The tests and badges will be free of charge. Amanyire said the ministry would give PSV badges to drivers recommended by the Police Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate (CIID) after they pass all the driving tests.

"We don't expect fake permits or badges because we shall have a computerized data base of all PSV drivers who have passed the driving tests and it will be easy to get the fake ones," Amanyire said.

Medical doctors will also examine the mental health of PSV drivers and issue reports on the basis of which PSV badges will be given or denied. The police insists that once the exercise is completed, any PSV driver without a PSV permit will be arrested.

The tests and badges are the latest measure announced in a bid to arrest Uganda's spiraling accidents. In recent years the government has, for instance, decreed that all vehicles must have seatbelts. However within less than a year, the police stop enforcing the measures and hardly any PSVs now have usable seatbelts. If the police can enforce this one, that alone will be the critical measure of success.

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