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Uganda: Stringent Traffic Provisions Enter into Force

(Mar. 20, 2009) It was reported on March 16, 2009, that certain provisions of the Traffic and Road Safety Act of 1998 recently became effective. The implementation had been temporarily delayed by the Transportation Minister (according to §1 of the Act) due to complaints that the provisions were too harsh. According to the Kampala Extra Region Police Chief, Lauben Mbamanya, the reason behind these rules is to bring down the number of accidents on Ugandan roads, said to have the second highest accident rate in Africa. The national death toll from traffic accidents for the year 2008 was 2,000. (Patrick Jaramogi, Tough Traffic Laws Start, The New Vision, Mar. 16, 2009, available at

The newly implemented provisions impose rather harsh penalties on drivers who operate motor vehicles under the influence of alcohol or drugs or who operate vehicles that are in poor mechanical condition, with loads exceeding the legal limits, or loaded in a manner that endangers public safety. The penalties imposed on drivers who cause bodily injury or death while driving recklessly or under the influence of substances that impair judgment are especially high. According to §108 of the Act, one of the provisions that recently entered into force, anyone who causes bodily injury or death while driving recklessly or under the influence of alcohol or drugs commits an offense and, on conviction, is punishable by a fine that ranges from UGX1.5 million to UGX4 million (about US$735-$1,960) and/or imprisonment of from two to five years. The provisions also give the police the power to arrest without warrants persons engaging in reckless or dangerous driving. (The Road Traffic Safety Act, XIII Laws of the Republic of Uganda, Cap. 361, 7418-7532 (rev. ed. 2000), also available at a fee-based, restricted online database, Uganda Online Library, at