Parliament has passed the Traffic and Road Safety Act 1998 (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
The bill among others will strengthen road transport regulation and road safety management in Uganda, address existing challenges such as new and emerging trends, increased number of road users including motorcycles, increased road accidents and the need to conform to the regional and international agreements that Uganda is a signatory to.
On Wednesday, MPs passed the Bill with amendments especially those relating to powers of the minister for transport, registration and licensing, validity periods for driving licenses and penalties.
The law has empowered the Department of Transport Regulation under the ministry of works to replace and take on the roles of the Transport Licensing Board and National Road Safety Council. This is aimed at enhancing the ministry’s regulatory and oversight role in the transport sector.
Other key provisions in the new law include regulating motor vehicle dealers, taxis, Boda Boda, online and digital passenger service providers.
The new law provides that every owner and operator of a public service vehicle, including taxis and Boda Boda, must be a registered member of a SACCO within that industry so as to organise the sector.
Also, individuals who repair motor vehicles, manufacture, deal in new, and second hand or reconditioned motor vehicles must be licensed by the Chief Licensing Officer.
Drivers of motor vehicles, trailers or engineering plant must secure driving licenses.
Driving licenses have replaced driving permits so as to harmonize with the international standards and uniformity whereby most countries in the East African countries including Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania issue driving licenses, the equivalent of driving permits in Uganda.
The law also introduces issuance of 5-year driving licenses in addition to the existing ones of 2 and 3 years.
Penalties and fines have been enhanced in the law for offences such as over speeding, driving without licenses, speaking on phone while driving.
Police records show that road traffic accidents account for the highest number of deaths in Uganda annually.
For instance, the 2018, Police Crime Report showed that on average, Uganda loses 10 people daily in road traffic crashes, which is the highest in East Africa. For instance, 12,805 road crashes were registered in 2018, of which 3,194 were fatal.
It was also noted in the report that of the 3,689 road users killed in road crashes, 1,321 were pedestrians, followed by passengers and cyclists and drivers.