Adopt technology to manage traffic with ease and earn more revenue

Traffic snarlup along Bunyala Roundabout, Nairobi, September 4, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Nairobi and all major towns in Kenya are reeling from endemic traffic jams coupled with untold indiscipline among road users including haphazard crossings at blind spots.

The situation has been worsened by the thriving motorcycle riders who have no regard for any traffic rule under the sun. Our roads are scenes of overspeeding, reckless overtaking, driving on wrong sides, disregard of road lanes or outright criminality.

 All these offences are supposed to attract fines as per the Traffic Act to finance the budget. Unfortunately, the proportion of traffic fines collected is insignificant compared to the wanton breaking of traffic rules witnessed on the roads.

The under collection of traffic fines is due to reliance on human intervention by overwhelmed traffic police and county government traffic marshals who in most cases have the last say on the few caught offenders.

The latitude with which the officers operate is the reason why the department prominently features on the corruption index. On several occasions, officials have made bench-marking trips around the globe on how to improve public transport and traffic management without evidence of implementation of the lessons learned.

May be, someone is gaining as the reports gather dust. Although their findings have never been publicly disclosed, various researchers have narrowed down to technology and human discipline as key concerns.

Technology can be used to automate the entire traffic management system by replacing most human interventions. Start by replacing all ordinary plates, including for motor cycles, with digital ones registered to a specific person linked to a telephone number and ID number. Then, install traffic cameras at intervals along major roads connected to highly automated control server.

Strategically position cameras to detect and relay information on overspeeding, or other visible offences. There shall be need to install adaptive traffic lights which operate on situational analysis instead of the ordinary traffic lights programmed on a defined schedule.

To tame careless road crossings, undesignated pedestrian crossings should be marked with computer-chip lining which can detect illegal crossing by a sim card and instantly charge the owner. Apply computerised road markings to charge blind spot overtaking and also to replace manned weigh bridges by automatically charging truck owner for excess weight.

The integration of the automated traffic management system with mobile telephone database will enable the traffic cameras and computerised markings to detect offences, relay to the server for billing to the registered owner of the mobile number for prompt payment.

Vehicle insurance and driving licence can also be tracked by linking them to a digital number plate so that once it expires, the system alerts the driver and automatically start charging fines whenever the vehicle hits the road. The scope of technology in managing traffic can extend even to monitoring seat occupancy in public vehicles so that any extra passenger is detected and an automatic fine sent to both the vehicle owner and the passenger. A few traffic police officers can be assigned mobile duties of resolving abnormal incidences and general surveillance.  

Traffic fines can be a major source of revenue in a country like Kenya where chaos reign on the roads. To cap it, sanity will be restored and incidences of corruption reduced due to minimal human interaction. However, such radical solutions should be insulated against resistance and outright sabotage to maintain status quo. The country already has infrastructure including fibre and mobile database, the elephant in the room is the willingness to tap these are low-hanging fruit to finance the budget, improve traffic flow and act as behavioural deterrent.

-Mr Mwinamo is a financial auditor. [email protected]