How police are using speed guns to extort motorists
Controversy is brewing over the use of speed guns with some rogue traffic officers accused of using the gadgets meant to catch speeding motorists to seek bribes just a month after the introduction of instant fines.
A number of motorists who spoke to the Sunday Nation have expressed frustration, saying they are being forced to part with money after being accused of speeding on roads without speed limit signs or warning that speed is being monitored.
Apart from Nairobi’s Thika superhighway, most roads are yet to be fitted with signs warning motorists that their speed is being monitored. Most of them also do not have speed limit signs.
It has also become common for officers with speed guns to hide while recording speeding motorists. The motorists are then stopped after some distance and asked to pay fines without been shown proof of speeding.
One motorist, Ms Chepkorir Sambu, alleges that she was stopped at Burnt Forest on her way to Eldoret to Nairobi last weekend and asked to pay Sh5,000 for speeding nine kilometres per hour (kph) above an 80kph limit.
“There were no signs to confirm it,” she says, “PSV vehicles going to Eldoret that were speeding past 100kph were not stopped and when we raised the issue, they went quiet yet they had been talking to us arrogantly insisting that we pay Sh5,000 to be released.”
Another motorist, Mr John Saiga, says he was recently forced to part with Sh1,000 even after insisting to get a printout showing that he was speeding as alleged by National Transport and Safety Authority officer who had stopped him at Gilgil.
“The print out showed that I was doing 85kph on a 110kph road but when I was stopped I was told I was doing 120 kph. I still had to part with Sh1,000 because they still had all manner of reasons why I am supposed to be charged,” he says.
NTSA Director General Francis Meja has defended the safety authority, saying not all speed guns on the roads belong to them.
“Some of them belong to the police. Every person has a right to be told and shown that they were speeding because that is what the law demands,” he says.
“As a matter of fact, the purpose having speed guns on the roads is not to make arrests but to slow down people because when you see them or know your speed is being monitored,” he said.
However, two weeks ago Kericho lawyer Kipkoech Ngetich went to the court seeking Sh10 million in compensation after the government failed to prove he was speeding. He had been charged for driving at 114kph along the Kericho- Nakuru highway against a speed limit of 100 kph.
During the hearing, the police failed to give the court the manufacturer’s specifications of the speed gun that was used to capture the lawyer’s car as it was allegedly speeding.
They also could not give the gadget’s maintenance charts as the lawyer argued that the road he is accused of speeding on had no signage showing the speed limit.
According to the Traffic Act, motorists who exceed the speed limit of a particular stretch of road by up to 5kph are supposed to get a warning.
Those who exceed the speed limit by between six and 10 kph will pay Sh500. It will cost you Sh3,000 fine if you are driving between 11kph and 15kph above the maximum allowed speed. In addition, exceeding the speed limit by between 16 to 20 kph will attract a Sh10,000 fine.
Some roads especially in big towns and areas with high population densities have a 50kph limit. In Nairobi speed restriction starts at City Cabanas on Mombasa Road, Nakumatt Junction on Ngong’ Road and the KWS gate on Lang’ata Road, on your way to town.
The limit also begins at the junction of James Gichuru Road on Waiyaki Way, the Muthaiga Mini Market on Limuru Road and at Mobil Petrol Station on Peponi Road.
On the Northern by-pass, the application of the rule starts at the Nyayo Barracks roundabout and from Ridgeways on Kiambu Road.
The Kenya Motorists Association says some of the restrictions are unrealistic and are only providing officers with grounds to extort bribes.
“The enforcement of speed limits has become is a joke because arresting someone more than 10km away from the point they were allegedly recorded speeding is ridiculous,” Peter Murima, the association’s chairman, says.
“The fines should be what is in the rules but most of the time you are told to pay a certain amount or be taken to court,” he says.