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Economy

Motorists to pay fines using smart licences

Francis  Meja, NTSA director-general. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Francis Meja, NTSA director-general. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenyan motorists will from next month use the new digital driving licences to pay instant traffic fines, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has said.

This is because the new licences will come with a payment wallet from where motorists will draw funds to pay instant fines in the event they are arrested for minor traffic offences, NTSA director-general Francis Meja said.

“The smart licences have a payment wallet that enables traffic officers to collect fines from motorists via a gadget,”

Mr Meja said in Mombasa on the sidelines of a CEO’s forum hosted by the Vision 2030 secretariat board.

“You can utilize the wallet for other payments, including fuel but more importantly it will be the mode of payment for traffic fines,” he said.

Kenyan motorists will from May begin to use the long promised digital driving licences that will, among other things, carry a detailed driver’s profile including traffic breaches. Last October, the courts blocked the NTSA’s attempt to introduce instant fines through a gazette notice after matatu owners sued.

The instant fines are for minor offences like speeding, riding motorcycles without protective gear, failure to fasten seat belts, pedestrians blocking free passage of cars, driving on footpaths and travelling with part of the body outside a moving vehicle. The penalties range between Sh500 and Sh10,000.

Mr Meja said the new digital driving licences - the size of a standard debit card - will improve road safety.

“When in place, the smart driving licence will enable the government to capture the driving history of all drivers and improve enforcement of traffic laws,” said Mr Meja.

The second generation driving licences are embedded with a secure computer chip containing the holder’s information, which is only readable using special electronic gadgets, owned and managed by NTSA officials.

Mr Meja said the smart licence will help eliminate bribery and corruption in the transportation sector. The digital cards will come with preloaded points and every time a driver commits a traffic offence, points will be deducted.

“They will come with a point system where users will get points deducted for various traffic offences. Once they exhaust their point system, they will then have their driver’s licence confiscated for a period of time. The points will be about 20. Should they go down to below 15, the driver will be suspended from the road for a period of six months,” said Mr Meja.

NTSA, Mr Meja added, is pushing for amendments to the law to provide for a one-year jail term for those found using suspended drivers’ licences without the option of bail.

National Bank won the tender to develop the smart licences in 2015, defeating 22 companies’ bid to supply the second generation licences.

Kenya has over five million licensed drivers currently using paper-based driving licences that can be easily counterfeited. 

Official statistics show that in 2015 the NTSA issued 91,336 driving licences, up from 88,666 issued in 2014.

The agency is planning to procure 6.5 million smart driving licences to be issued to motorists beginning next month.

Under its Transport Integrated Management System (TIMS), NTSA has taken most of its services online including inspection booking, transfer of ownership, driver licence record search, driving licence issuance, driver licence renewal and application for road service licences.

Currently, motorists caught with traffic offences must face the courts, a process that is seen as time-consuming and encouraging the offenders to bribe the police in order to avoid the inconvenience.

Under the suspended instant fine rules, motorists in Nairobi who commit minor traffic offences such as talking on the phone while driving or exceeding speed limits were to pay instant fines of between Sh500 and Sh10,000.

The rules also barred the police from arresting motorists for minor offences or towing their vehicles to police stations.           

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