Right of way refers to a preference of one or more vehicles or vessels or between a vehicle and a pedestrian asserting the right of passage at the same place and time. However, it is not an absolute right as the possessor of the right of way is not relieved from exercising due care for their own safety and that of other road users.
There is no doubt that in Uganda, this right has continuously been abused and illegally exercised by those who are not entitled to it. They simply take advantage because they think they are very important persons to exercise the right with impunity.
Every person has a right to move freely through Uganda as per Article 29(2)(a)of the Constitution. This, in my view, includes movement on the roads within the country. Be that as it may, there is a category of people who are entitled to enjoy the right of way in a regulated manner.
For instance, authorised drivers of emergency vehicles such as ambulances, may disregard any regulation governing direction of movement or turning in a specified direction, exceed speed limit, proceed past a red or stop sign and park anywhere. However, they should not endanger life or property as per Article 123 of the Traffic and Road safety Act 1998. This right is also exercised only in emergency cases.
The driver of the car of a president, vice president, Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice, Speaker of Parliament, Prime minister or a police vehicle or other emergency vehicle in a state motorcade, is allowed in case of emergency or in other cases as prescribed, to deviate from the traffic regulations as per Regulation 5(2) of Traffic and Road Safety (Rules of the Road) Regulations, 2004 SI NO.35 2004.
Security vehicles/motorcycle with siren or police and army number plates can also claim the right of way, but not those with civilian number plates except only those in emergency situations with permission from police. Sometimes military vehicles are allowed to clear the way during a security mission or escorting a highly placed person in the army.
However, any individual can ask for right of way depending on the nature of the journey, but prudence dictates that such a person be escorted by a police vehicle after obtaining authorisation from the concerned authorities. It is also worth noting that bullion vans or trucks from the central bank enjoy right of way.
It is unfortunate that sometimes traffic police and other traffic enforcement officers just look on when the right of way is abused. This kind of impunity should be stopped.
Brian Kisomose,
[email protected]