A nation that obeys traffic lights unpoliced

Drivers who fail to obey traffic lights put not only themselves, but other motorists in danger of accidents and serious injuries.

Kenya Traffic Act violations and penalty guidelines recommended for all road users — drivers, passengers, police officers and pedestrians — are meant to eliminate the reckless behaviour on our roads that often result in unnecessary loss of lives.

However, despite these traffic offences and penalty guidelines, road users continue to break them without blinking an eye. This specifically touches on traffic lights, usually a set of automatically operated coloured lights; characteristically red, amber, and green, for controlling traffic at road junctions, pedestrian crossings and roundabouts.

Hazards increase when a driver disobeys traffic laws, such as by running a red light or driving through a stop sign. Road users, especially motorists, have formed the habit of disobeying them except when there is a police officer in view, a culture that ought to change.

It was a great relief when Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i announced the restoration of sanity on our roads. However, there seems to be a relapse as violation of traffic rules continues unabated

Causing accidents

Driving in Nairobi gives you the experience of this unpleasant culture on our roads. Take for instance a drive on Limuru Road, just after the Village Market stands, one encounters traffic lights that many motorists choose to ignore thereby causing accidents that would have otherwise been avoided. These result in injuries and sometimes loss of lives.  

At the UN Avenue junction, on the same road, the situation is the same. While some motorists stop at the indication of red lights, some ignorant and impatient ones drive past them.

You sometimes mistake them for driving a stolen vehicle and trying to evade the police. Could it also be that they fear to be inspected or stopped by the police in case they are ferrying terrorists or related materials? Could they be drunk drivers who pose a much bigger danger to other road users? We do not know.

The situation is the same at the traffic lights along the entire Tom Mboya Street, starting from the Post Office all the way to Moi Avenue.

Both private and public transport motorists are culprits. They blatantly drive past red lights. Notorious law-breakers are the buses of which one might think are driven by well-trained and disciplined drivers since they are owned by reputable companies.

Subsequent conviction

The Traffic Act Cap 403 section 52(1)(a) and (b) states that “the driver of a vehicle shall at all times (a)obey any directions given, whether verbally or by signal, by a police officer in uniform, in the execution of his duty; and (b) conform to the indications given by any traffic sign.

Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any of the provisions of this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable; (a) for a first conviction, to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand shillings or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months; and (b) for a second or (c) to a fine not exceeding seventy thousand shillings or a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year. Nonetheless this has not served as deterrence.

An answer to this problem may lie with the erection of sign boards on major highways warning of consequences of flouting traffic rules with the corresponding fines, especially where there are traffic lights.

Random culprits can also be picked from CCTV surveillance while non-uniformed police officers may be strategically positioned to monitor offenders and prosecute them to serve as an example and set a precedent.

It is important for road users to observe traffic lights and any other traffic rules without being watched by a police officer. This in a way will bring back sanity on the roads and offer stress free use to both motorists and pedestrians while minimising the rates of road accidents.

Ms Wesonga comments on topical [email protected]