9 February 2018

Rwanda: Police Mulls Harsh Penalties for Errant Motorists

Police have hinted at a proposal to amend the law on road safety which, could significantly increase the penalties meted out on motorists in the wrong.

This was said by Commissioner of Police Rafiki Mujiji, the commissioner for traffic and road safety, during a mass operation on Kigali City roads and highways to ensure all road safety standards are adhered to help curb fatalities.

The operation follows reports of various serious accidents largely caused by use of phones while driving, speeding, reckless maneuvers, mechanical faults, and failure to respect right of way, especially for pedestrians.

In an operation conducted along Nyabugogo-Muhima-City centre, for example, traffic officers pulled over about 45 motorists, within a space of one hour, who were using mobile handsets while driving.

"Driving while using the phone is one the serious problems that we see, and a major cause of accidents. A phone diverts the driver's thinking and attention... it engages the brain. That's why it's one of the issues we are focusing on in this operation but we are also teaching passengers not to allow anything drivers do that can put their lives in danger," said Mujiji.

"As we penalise drivers, we also want passengers to be responsible for their safety, call us and report bad driving, and where possible get out of that car. These operations will continue across the country," he added.

Accidents resulting from use of phones, speeding, bad maneuvers and violation of right to way account for about 90 per cent of the total 78 serious accidents that occurred last month alone.

These accidents involved majority private vehicles with motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians the majority victims.

"Accidents caused by public and cargo vehicles reduced by 65 per cent largely because of the installation of speed governor, which are now fitted in about 90 of automobiles in these two categories, but now the issue of speeding private vehicles," he said.

"When you are driving or riding keep in mind that there are other people using the same road, and who want to live and have families to look after like you," CP Mujiji said.

He also hinted at the ongoing revision of the law related to road safety that will provide punitive penalties for offenders.

The proposed penalty for speaking on phone, for example, will increase tenfold from the current Rwf10, 000, once the new law comes into force.

Similarly, there is likely to be an increase in jail term from the current maximum of six months as well as easing the process of revoking a driver's license where necessary.

The current law is said to be weak and easily challenged in courts of law. Only one person has had their driver's licence revoked in the last four years out of hundreds of cases, while very few drivers whose recklessness result into loss of lives are convicted.

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