Certain provisions of the Traffic Amendment Act 2012 came into effect on Saturday. The provisions prescribe heavy fines and penalties for dangerous and careless driving; overloading by Public Service Vehicles (PSV); unauthorised or “squad” driving; obstructive parking; speeding; failure to wear uniform by PSV crew and failure to wear protective gear by motor-cyclists; overlapping; driving on pavements and failure to carry a driving licence among other violations.
The new laws are aimed at regulating the chaotic public transport sector in Kenya, but their implementation is already facing stiff opposition from public transport operators who view the new rules as a ploy to kick them out of business.
But will the new laws make a difference in the transport sector? History shows otherwise. In March 2004, the late John Michuki, then Minister for Transport, enacted the famous Michuki Rules to enforce mandatory installation of speed governors and safety belts in PSV matatus in a bid to enhance safety and instil order into the sector. In July 2008 the City Council of Nairobi attempted to effect the City Council of Nairobi (Omnibus Stations) Amendment By-laws, 2008 intended to decongest the Central Business District (CBD) by restricting matatus operating in certain parts of the City to designated Bus Termini.
The need for proper regulation of the public transport sector in Kenya cannot be over-emphasised. In a research carried out by the UK Transport Research Laboratory, Kenya ranked the 5th highest number of accidents per licensed motor vehicles out of 29 selected countries worldwide.
The Exchequer, the general public and private business pay heavy costs for the hospitalisation, treatment and rehabilitation of accident victims.
They also bear the high price of material damage to motor vehicles, mobile plant equipment, damaged merchandise and lost man hours. This is without counting the cost of fuel wasted in incessant traffic jams and the ever rising premiums of underwriting the high risks associated with public transport. This is all due to selective application and laxity in the enforcement of traffic laws.
Notably, three months after the promulgation of the Michuki Rules, road accidents declined nationally by 74 per cent while accidents involving urban transport buses fell by a whopping 93 per cent. This is no longer the case and every passenger or motorist will attest that only a few matatu operators are still complying with the Michuki Rules. Consequently, disorder crept back into the sector.
Mr Wanderi is a lawyer and chairman Kenya Institute of Forensic Auditors.