By Wahome Thuku
NAIROBI, KENYA: A lorry driver has become the first casuality of the new traffic laws after a Nairobi court sentenced him to life imprisonment for causing death through dangerous driving.
Anthony Gitau Kuria, 60, will spend the rest of his life in jail for killing a cyclist Stello Lemetek on Waiyaki Way, Nairobi, in February.
The sentence imposed by Nairobi Senior Principal Magistrate Paul Biwot comes after public outcry over road carnage and is likely to generate debate among motorists.
Though causing death by dangerous driving is the most serious traffic offence, it was not until the Traffic Act was amended by Parliament recently that it became punishable by life imprisonment.
In a Bill tabled in the House by Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo, Parliament amended Section 46 of the Act which provided a maximum of 10 years for the offence and possible cancellation of the driving license for three years.
The life imprisonment is now imposed for causing death even by leaving a vehicle in a dangerous position or condition in public roads.
But in Gitau’s case, it was his decision to run away from the scene and failure to report to police that promoted the magistrate to impose the harsh sentence.
He hit the cyclist at 1pm on February 18, and drove away, leaving him dead. The driver did not report to any police station within 24 hours as required by the law.
But a matatu driver who witnessed the accident took down the lorry’s registration numbers and reported to traffic police. A few days later Gitau was arrested along Nairobi-Nakuru highway.
The prosecution led by Chief Inspector Nzau Msangi called seven witnesses. A doctor told the court that Lemetek died of serious injuries and excessive blood clot.
Convicting the accused yesterday, the magistrate said Gitau was out to evade criminal liability by running away from the accident scene.
Gitau who was out on cash bail was given 14 days right of appeal.