• Beware as traffic cops take advantage of the ignorance of citizens to exploit them
The festive season is here with us. We are in that phase where many Kenyans will be travelling to celebrate the holidays with their families.
During this season, it is normal to come across police roadblocks along various roads, mostly for speed checks. Oftentimes, those caught on the wrong side of the law pay bribes as it seems more convenient as compared to following due process.
Besides the lengthy proceedings in courts, many times one will commit a traffic offence far from their place of abode, making it inconvenient to travel back for court proceedings.
In other instances, law enforcement officers take advantage of the ignorance of citizens to exploit them. This piece looks into some common offences and their penalties. These are regulated by the Minor Traffic Offences provisions and the Traffic Act.
1. Driving above the prescribed speed limit
The prescribed speed limit for public service vehicles is 80 km/h, whereas that of private vehicles is 110 km/h. In trading centres, townships, municipalities and areas where children cross the roads, the limit is 50 km/h.
If the speed limit is exceeded by 1-5 km/h, the driver should be warned. If it is 6-10 km/h, one is fined Sh500; 11-15 km/h, Sh3,000; and 16-20km/h Sh20,000.
2. Driving without a licence
If one does not have a driving licence in respect of the class of vehicle they are driving, they are liable to a fine of Sh3,000. If one has a licence but it has not been renewed, the fine is Sh1,000. Failure to produce a licence upon request by a police officer is also an offence with a fine of Sh1,000.
One is, however, given 24 hours to do so. Moreover, under Section 36 (2) of the Traffic Act, a licence isn't strictly the document but anything that proves that one is authorised to drive the vehicle in question. Suffice to say, one can log in to their NTSA portal to prove they are duly licensed.
Obstruction involves any act by a driver that obstructs, inconveniences or endangers other road users. A driver whose vehicle breaks down ought to put it beside the road. Further, if the vehicle is by the roadside between 6.45pm and 6.15pm, it must be indicated by lights.
4. Vehicle not in good condition
A vehicle should have all its parts and equipment, including lights and tyres, in good condition. They should be maintained in a manner that they are not likely to endanger the lives of the occupants or other road users.
5. Driving while using one's phone
This is an offence many drivers commit. If caught, one is liable to a fine of Sh2,000.
6. Failure to wear a safety belt
Definitely another offence many commit, oblivious of the crucial role safety belts play. One contravening the provision is liable to a fine of Sh500. A conductor of a PSV who fails to maintain the safety belts in a clean and wearable condition also faces a fine of Sh500.
7. Driving under the influence
This is a major traffic offence that many people commit over the festive season. Given the great risk it poses to people's lives, it is not treated lightly. One committing the offences risks a fine not exceeding Sh100,000, imprisonment of two years or both.
Once charged, one may appear in court to take a plea, that is, accept or deny charges. Alternatively, they may send a notification of the plea accompanied by the maximum fine by post. If the plea is a plea of guilty, the court may accept the fine or lower it and send back the balance. If it is a plea of not guilty, a hearing date will be set.
The provisions are set out to save lives. It is in our interest to obey them as in so doing, we protect ourselves and those around us.