By Amandla Neumbe
Parliament passed the Traffic and Road Safety Amendment Bill 2018 with lawmakers rejecting the proposal to make it statutory for road users to help accident victims.
Last year, the former Minister of Works and Transport, Eng. Monica Azuba tabled The Traffic and Road Safety Amendment Bill 2019 that seeks to amend the 1998 Act and the bill was referred to Parliament’s Physical Infrastructure Committee headed by Robert Ssekitoleko (Nakifuma County) for scrutiny.
Government noted that the legislation is proposing new traffic and road safety measures intended to strengthen road transport regulation and management and the Bill and would take into account new and emerging trends and dynamics in road transport and road safety management, the increased number of road users, and the need to conform to the regional and international agreements Uganda is signatory to.
The Ministry of Works stated that the Bill seeks to deal with defects of the 1998 law and some of the defects include; lack of definition for careless, reckless and dangerous driving in the Act so as to guide the Uganda Police in their application.
According to Government, the current Act does not impose a duty for physical possession of the original driving permit but instead requires that a driver produces it within forty eight hours after request by the traffic police.
The bill proposed to make it mandatory for road users to render assistance to accident victims, but the proposal received mixed reactions from MPs with some saying there is no need to legislate over morals and that road users have already been rendering assistance to the victims and legislating over such affairs would deter the good Samaritans from extending the help required.
Ssemujju Nganda argued that it was unreasonable to make road users duty bound to offer help to accident victims, saying he doesn’t know why it should be statutory for Ugandans to stop and help accident victims.
Michael Timuzigu (Kajara County) from Ntungamo district warned that with the heightened security risks in the country, mandating Ugandans to stop to help accident victims would mean that Parliament is making a law for some people to die at hands of assassins, who would use the provision to pose as accident victims.
Elijah Okupa (Kasilo County) supported the provision reminding MPs that they are all victims of accidents, “I don’t know what type of heart Ssemujju has to reject this proposal.”
Shadow Attorney General, Wilfred Niwagaba called on Parliament to leave the biblical position without legislating on it, a position that was backed by another MP Lucy Akello who said, “It comes back to the human heart. We may have it in the law, it may still remain redundant. Let us work hard to sensitize our people that we help our neighbors.”
Godfrey Onzima (Aringa County North) said that there should be an element in the law where one is permitted to help, “Your involvement must be backed by the permission of the law. If your involvement isn’t backed by the law, someone may question it.”
Connie Nakayenze (Mbale Woman MP) rejected the proposal arguing that there have never been incidences where people have abandoned accident victims, “If we legislate this, we may change their attitude. Let it be at good will.”
Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah said that the mistake lawmakers make is to think the word ‘may’ is discretionary and ‘shall’ is mandatory adding there is need for legislators to understand when moral obligation become a legal obligation. He added that when considering any legislation, there is need for the people that fronted the bill to understand if they are capable of implementing the said law, “Is it one of those provisions we want to have in our statutory books?” Oulanyah asked Government.
The Committee and Government both agreed to drop the provision.
Government had inserted a new clause in 125 of the current Act that reads; A person involved in an accident shall have access to medical treatment at a hospital clinic or any other health facility without proof or financial ability to pay until he or she has been stabilized.
A person who contravenes this provision is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding three hundred currency points or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both. Parliament upheld the clause
The proposal by Police that requires licensing of all garages in the country was upheld by Parliament with MPs arguing that the move would help rid the country of fake mechanics who have been swindling of drivers money in pretext of repairing cars only for the same vehicles to breakdown as soon they leave the garages.
Parliament also approved the licensing of digital transport systems in the country which he says will greatly improve on the security of passengers.
The protest against tax drivers on individual ownership of public transport was quashed by MPs who upheld Government’s proposal requiring all passenger vehicles to be registered under associations known as SACCO.