Starting July this year, all drivers of commercial vehicles will undergo fresh training conducted by government in an attempt to enforce discipline and create sanity on Ugandan roads.
According to the commissioner of transport in the Works and Transport Ministry, Winston Katushabe, after the fresh training, the successful drives will be issued with professional drivers’ permits on top of the current ones.
“We will have three categories of commercial vehicles to undergo this training. The passenger, goods and dangerous vehicles are the ones that qualify to get a professional driving permit. In addition to the driving licence, you must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you are able to pass the areas of training the ministry will take you through,” Katushabe said on Tuesday afternoon during the launch of 5 Keys Driving Systems, a new company that will train Ugandan drivers in defensive driving.
Uganda is currently grappling with the problem of carnage on her roads with at least 10 people killed on average.
Commercial vehicles including trailers, trucks, taxis and buses have contributed to the big bulk of the carnage on Ugandan roads.
Speaking on Tuesday, the commissioner for transport said the drivers of commercial vehicles will be taught defensive driving skills among other areas and those who fail will not be issued with the professional drivers’ permits.
Katushabe also revealed that in accordance with the Traffic and Road Safety (Amendment) Act 2020, the ministry has worked on several regulations that will come into force before the end of the year.
“We have formulated regulations in consultation with key stakeholders and one of them we intend to implement is the demerit system. This will see a driver have maximum points on their driving licence and every offence you commit will see us deduct a point until such a time when you can no longer drive a vehicle. For example if you are drunk and knock a person and it has been found you were careless, all the points will be removed from the driving licence completely and you can’t drive for a period of one, three or five years,”Katushabe explained.
He said the new regulations were drafted by the Works and Transport Ministry and are currently before the Attorney General for perusal and clearance before they come into force.
Katushabe however warned that the ministry will have time to sensitize the public about the new regulations before they are implemented.
According to Gerald Ayebare, the CEO for 5 Keys Driving Systems, whereas many drivers know how to balance the vehicle on the road, there is a lot of knowledge they lack.
“Whereas previously I worked in police as a driver and I thought I was the best, reality befell me when I was taken to the US for a two months driving course. This is reality in Uganda where many drivers think they know it all and this has led to the many accidents we have on our roads,” Ayebare.
Jonathan Kasigaire, the Executive Marketing Director for 5 Keys Driving Systems attributed to the increased accidents on Ugandan roads to lack of defensive driving skills by most drivers.
“In December and January, alone, you can see we have lost many people on our roads. We think with the right defensive skills, we can reduce road carnage. Drivers must have the right mindset while on the road, customer care, have a purpose while driving and sense of belonging,” Kasigaire said.
“Over 90% of the accidents are caused by us the drivers and this is partly because we don’t have the right training and defensive skills. We think as a private sector, we can help train drivers on Ugandan roads to ensure safety and sanity on our roads.”
He explained that the company will be training individual and group drivers as well as recruiting and training drivers for organisations and companies.
According to Lawrence Niwabiine, the Traffic Police director, discipline is key on reducing carnage on Ugandan roads.
“The biggest challenge is we have nurtured indiscipline within ourselves and as a result, we tend to challenge each and every situation and end up going wrong,”Niwabiine said.
He said there is need for much emphasis to be put on driving training schools to ensure they do a thorough job before releasing driver onto the country’s roads.
Speaking during the same function, Mustafa Mayambala, the deputy chairperson of the Uganda Taxi Operators Federation(UTOF) admitted that the issue of training of drivers, especially for passenger vehicle is key in curbing accidents on Ugandan roads.
“We had already started on this process of training taxi drivers with the Uganda Road Safety Council until it was merged. It is true there are many errors made by drivers on the road that they need fresh training but the problem is that these trainings are done in hotels instead of coming to the ground where the drivers are,” Mayambala said.
“The issues mentioned like reckless driving and sudden overtaking specifically concern the drivers but the problem is that these trainings are not spread out.”
According to Mayambala, it is high time government worked hand in hand with Uganda Taxi Operators Federation and other organisatons to mobilise public transport drivers to go for these refresher trainings.
He however warned the program will not be successful if government does it through driving schools which charge exorbitant fees to the drivers.