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Drivers Are Living In Interesting Times With Return
Of Boys In Blue Together With Their 'Breathalysers'’

Coastweek -- In the time that the National Transport Safety Authority or NTSA has been “off” the road in terms of enforcement, we seem to have settled back into the normal rhythm of life with the boys in blue now firmly back in charge and the NTSA vehicles now not as feared as they were almost a year ago, writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.

What has changed then?

The NTSA had arresting and prosecutorial powers because they had some of the traffic police seconded to the unit.

They had invested in some sophisticated equipment and managed to bring back the breathalysers after a short hiatus when the legality of the instruments had been challenged and the challenger won.

The agency went back to the drawing board and was then able to change the rules and bring in an acceptable model of the instrument whose results could stand in a court of law.

The agency also had sufficient vehicles to show their presence in many parts of the country and they were mobile enough to move from one spot to another in pursuit of miscreant drivers.

This mobility made it look like there were many officers in the agency making the seem almost omnipresent across the whole country.

Perhaps the one thing that lost them their active role was their penchant for hot pursuit of traffic offenders.

They started doing this when drivers began to ignore the signal to stop in the hope that the NTSA was as impotent as the traffic police who waved people down and when one sped away they would gesticulate wildly but would never mount a chase since they did not have the appropriate equipment and presence of mind to set themselves up in that manner.

Several fatal accidents occurred ostensibly because the NTSA enforcement team was in hot pursuit of buses and articulated heavy goods vehicles that had ignored the instructions to stop.

The drivers, who were not used to being pursued by enforcement agencies, panicked when they saw the green, white and yellow vehicles of the agency in their rear mirrors.

Not knowing what to do their reaction was that of flight rather than fight and in the process of flight ended up either overturning or losing control of their vehicles and getting involved in horrendous accidents or they would undertake dangerous overtaking manoeuvres and end up in accidents.

In the year since the NTSA was removed from the roads, the mayhem as we know it on the roads resurfaced as the normal traffic police resumed their beat with all its attendant warts and sores.

Clips are again being exchanged on social media showing portly policemen and women being chased by undercover anti-corruption officials who had been trailing them or had them under surveillance for receiving bribes.

In some instances, drivers have installed their own dashboard cams and some also have body cams which they use to record the excesses of the boys in blue and then share on social media as well as with the leadership of the police force.

Recently I was driving to the airport in Nairobi very early one Saturday morning to catch a flight back to Mombasa when I came across slow moving traffic on Uhuru Highway.

At that hour one is more likely expecting to find a car stranded on top of a roundabout or even worse as a mangled wreckage having had an altercation either with another vehicle or with the hardware on the road.

This is the drunk drivers’ hour and even those driving, like myself on that day, have to be extra careful in case they become fodder for drunk drivers intent on hitting any object that comes in their way as they navigate the city’s streets to get home or to their next alcoholic destination.

However, when I got to the head of the queue, I found that it was actually caused by a traffic police road block.

They were busy checking every car and when it came to my turn, the cop asked me to open the window and he then thrust his head into the car.

A few heavy deep, heavy breaths later he asked whether I had had any drink.

I confidently told him no as in fact I had not imbibed any alcoholic beverage for several days.

He asked again and I gave him the same answer.

He asked a third time and added whether I would be happy to take a breathalyser test to prove that I had not taken any alcohol.

I replied in the affirmative.

He warned me of my rights under the law and then told me to wait as he turned away towards the waiting vehicle.

After walking a few steps, he came back and told me to proceed and this time with a wide smile on his face!

It would seem, from this encounter that they are now back in full force with all the technology that was handed to them by the NTSA.

Their approach when they stop you is also markedly different from before.

At that time, one was stopped and asked immediately to take a breathalyser test.

I consider that this approach is a better way of handling drivers and also one that means that one could easily incriminate themselves during the questioning process making it likely that one will be hit by a double whammy in court should they have been over the limit and tried to call the cop’s bluff.

So, drivers on the road in Kenya and especially in the built-up areas or on busy trunk roads, where the pickings are easier, should now be careful.

We have different breed of cop on traffic duty and with the horrendous coloured uniform that they are about to start donning, we could be faced with interesting times as a new relationship between the typical Kenyan driver (who drives a defective vehicle, is a defective driver themselves or have decided to make themselves defective through contamination) and the boys in the ungodly blue develops.

In order to stay out of their paws or maws, it is up to us as drivers to up our game and make the roads a safer place instead of playing cat and mouse with the boys in blue.

As Kachumbari says, Tom and Jerry should remain in the Disney cartoon world and not take residence on our roads!

 

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