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City motorists to pay instant traffic fines

Speeding motorists will pay fines pegged on how far they exceeded the set limits if Parliament passes proposed amendments to the Traffic Act.

The provision for graduated fines is intended to curb corruption and improve efficiency in the enforcement of traffic laws, according to a memorandum on the proposed laws.

“Statutory fixing of fines is intended to make it easier to determine how much one will pay and to reduce rent-seeking,” said the Institute of Legislative Affairs executive director Vincent Kimosop.

“Any motorist who acknowledges their mistake will be issued with a ticket and won’t need to appear in court.”

Mr Komosop added that the proposed fines were arrived at by looking at what the courts have been charging.

FEEL THE PINCH

Graduating the fines is also meant to ensure that notorious offenders feel the pinch while those who may have unknowingly exceeded the limit bear a lighter burden.

Traffic commandant Charlton Mureithi said the police have been working on similar provisions as opposed to the current system where offenders are expected to appear before a magistrate.

“We have written to the IG (Inspector- General ) detailing the feasibility of the system, its challenges and options and are awaiting directions,” said Mr Mureithi.

The proposed law is expected to reduce inconvenience associated with the current regime where an officer can detain a speeding motorist for hours.

Before mobile courts were withdrawn from the roads last year, motorists would spend hours waiting to appear before a magistrate to pay fines.

Under the proposed law, only motorists who deny the charges would appear before courts.

“A straightforward ticket is definitely a good idea as everyone will know where they stand. You could be arrested while you have your children on the back seat and delayed for hours on the road. This will help,” said motoring expert Gavin Bennett.

INCONVENIENCE

The delay on the roads and inconvenience of court appearance have been put forward as reasons people pay bribes to traffic officers.

But Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) secretary-general Stephen Mutoro insists that ticketing will not solve the problem of corruption, saying it is likely to raise the amounts traffic officers will demand from offenders in lieu of issuing the ticket.

“It is a good idea whose time has not come. First we need to make sure that payment will be automated to prevent the officers from handling cash even as we deal firmly with corruption among the officers,” Mr Mutoro said.

The payment mechanisms have not been spelt out although in other jurisdictions like the US and the UK, one can pay electronically or in cash at the court clerk’s office.

In 2012, the Judiciary launched a mobile money platform dubbed ‘Faini Chap Chap’ that aimed to speed up payment of fines by convicted offenders.

Last year, 2,907 people died on the roads, the majority of the deaths associated with speeding.

SHARP INCREASE

Transport secretary Michael Kamau has linked the sharp increase in deaths on the roads in the final months of 2014 to the withdrawal of mobile courts he says had become a huge deterrent to speeding motorists.

The National Transport and Safety Authority has stepped up a campaign to limit speeds at 50 kilometres per hour in towns and 80 kilometres per hour on highways for public service vehicles.

In the UK, serial offenders who have been issued 12 speeding tickets within three years have their licences taken away — a feature that the Bill’s sponsor, Laisamis MP Joseph Lekuton says is hampered in Kenya by lack of a proper database of drivers.

“In the US, everyone over 18 is a driver but they have a database where the officer flagging you down can check how many tickets you have. This is necessary but there’s no such database in Kenya,” he said.

Besides the schedule setting speed fines, the Bill seeks to keep speed limit near schools to 30 kilometres per hour.

The amendments also give the Cabinet secretary responsible for transport powers to make regulations setting the standards for vehicles that will be used to ferry school children.

Top among suggested regulations is a uniform colour for school vehicles for easy recognition by other motorists.