The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Police to Arrest Drunk Passengers

At a weekend news conference, police rewrote the rules of its ambitious drink driving campaign.

The good rule of thumb is that drivers who fail a breath-alcohol test are either fined or detained till they sober up. But on Friday that changed, the Commander Kampala Metropolitan police, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, said his officers would go after drunk passengers too.

Before the change of rules, police and Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL) had been advocating replacement drivers, a crew of sober motorists for hire, to safely drive drunk patrons to their homes. However, Kaweesi says getting a replacement driver to take you home, may not stop you from a stint in jail.

"Like on the highways, all town service taxis must be checked. All occupants should get out and the drunk passengers will be detained at the police station until they are sober," Kaweesi said on Friday.

"This is because the driver might be sober but the drunk passengers might disrupt him and cause accidents."

Kaweesi's new directive came as he reported on the road carnage situation, over the Christmas break. He said 10 people had died and a further 28 injured in two separate accidents over the last three days in taxis, due to drink-driving.

"Today [Friday] morning seven people died and five others got injured at Seeta in a taxi, which was coming from Bobi Wine's beach in Busabaala," Kaweesi added.

"When police checked the passengers, they were all drunk and the driver drove on the wrong lane where he rammed into a trailer that overturned and killed people."

The move is at variance with a UBL move earlier backed by the police, last week. After receiving the 2013 Corporate Social Responsibility award, Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL) activated their "Red Card" campaign to reduce incidences of drink-driving this festive season.

Themed "Everyone is a winner with responsible drinking", the campaign emphasizes the benefits of moderate drinking to families, communities and the whole country.

The Kampala metropolitan police noted that the Red-Card campaign carried out during last year's festive season achieved a 10 per cent reduction in the number of drink-driving- related accidents.

"I thank UBL for these campaigns and I pray that they are sustained in order to reduce cases of road accidents," said Benith Wakooli, the deputy commander of traffic division in Kampala Metropolitan police.

The campaign aims to engage taxi drivers in promoting a "Safe Ride home" concept, as well encouraging those who get drunk to use public transport to return home. Reflecting on Kaweesi's new directive, Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago asked the police to go slow on drunken passengers because arresting them would be enforcing laws not provided in the penal code.

"They are taking it too far. There is a breakdown of laws in this country. It is only police that wakes up in the morning and enforces laws on people which are not in the penal code," he said, on Friday.

Lukwago also acknowledged that drink-driving is an offence, but they can charge drink-drivers personally not drunken passengers since they don't commit any offence by sitting in the vehicle.

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