BY NBM WRITER
he National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has been on a journey to transform the transport sector. First came the alcoblow whose lifespan was cut short through a court order. Recently, NTSA launched the use of the smart driving license to pay traffic violations fines instantly.
The smart driving license is equipped with a wallet from where the driver will access funds to pay instant fines for the penalties ranging between Sh500 and Sh10, 000, which include speeding, riding motorcycles without protective gear, failure to fasten seat belts, pedestrians blocking free passage of cars, driving on footpaths and traveling with part of the body outside a moving vehicle. The new driving licenses are set to improve road safety and will thus enable the Government to capture the driving history of all drivers and improve enforcement of traffic laws.
It is argued that the smart license will reduce bribery and corruption in the transport sector, as offences will be captured digitally and preloaded points accorded to drivers deducted every time the driver makes a traffic offence. This will mean that once the drivers exhaust their point system, their licenses will be confiscated for a period of time. Those found using suspended drivers’ licenses could face up to one-year in jail without the option of bail.
Further, the data will then be available for use by third parties like insurance firms who will use it to decide insurance premiums that are paid where a good driver pays a lower premium and vice versa. This is aimed at fostering behavioral change as the personal data, which will also be available on one’s transport integrated management systems (TIMS) account online is expected to be so trusted, such that an employer can use your profile to determine your employability.
While the points system has always been there with the red booklet, the process has been manual, with the traffic police expected to write the points at the back of the booklet, a scenario that never occurs. The card will prove beneficial with spot fines easing the attendance of mobile courts as the fines can be charged to your account by an integrated financial wallet. Thus NTSA will be in charge of the points while the judiciary will be in charge of the bonds and fines. An interview with NTSA staff member who requested anonymity owing to lack of consent to comment on this issue revealed that offenses such as drunk driving will cost one 14 points out of 20 and 6 months of driving. Therefore, this means that if caught twice in a week drunk driving you will lose a year of driving. When plugged into the reader, the card will present your required information based on the type of offense committed. Some offenses have lower fines and drivers will be able to see what their penalties are right there on the card reader. The penalties can be tied to your account and you can deal with them either immediately or later.
However, the devil with these new point systems might prove to be implementation. With a murky transport sector mired in corruption, one wonders how the police will be entrusted to implement a traffic point system that hinges solely on a digital system and the goodwill of the traffic officers implementing it, sentiments echoed by touts and many other stakeholders.
“Everybody knows the traffic police love money. Who will implement a system that threatens a big chunk of their proceeds?” posed Kamau, a tout plying Nairobi/Limuru route..
However, the police have refuted these claims and have asserted their enthusiasm to implement this policy, terming it very timely. “It is time traffic offenders felt the pain of breaking traffic rules, and the only way is to make its effects long lasting and cross-cutting through this point system,” says a traffic officer from Traffic Headquarters.
The point system is a very laudable initiative by the transport regulator. If properly implemented it can critically change the transport industry and instill some ethics in it. However, it all depends on the good will of police for its successful implementation.