Kampala, Uganda | URN | This week, the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), together with Uganda Police, commenced the enforcement of speed limits and other regulations along the Entebbe Expressway or the M3.
This move followed the increasing number of accidents on the road with most blamed on overspending and driving on the wrong lane, among others, with the latest being a truck that rammed into a toll booth on Tuesday 22, August 2023.
According to UNRA, motorists exceeding the speed limit of 100 kilometers per hour are flagged down at the exit points. This is done based on communication from the camera control center manned by police, which records the speeds of each vehicle. However, the speed limit of 100km/h has drawn reactions from motorists especially those using the M3, questioning the relevance of the “expressway” concept amidst speed limits.
“Please adhere to speed limits to create a safer environment for everyone on the road,” appealed UNRA on its social media channels. In relation to the 200,000 shilling penalty, Tony Otoa, the CEO of Stanbic Business Incubator remarked; “How about we remove the word Expressway then?” a view supported by some others. “Please explain the rationale behind the 100km/h speed limit on an Expressway. Can’t that be increased?,” wondered another motorist.
Emma Oboi, another driver said he was done with the expressway after he was given an express penalty for driving at 109km/h. “Those traffic guys got me at a speed of 109km/h and wasted over 30 minutes of my time then gave me a ticket. I would have spent 30 minutes on the old road. No more express. I will be using the old road,” he said.
David Kabanda, a taxi hire and airport transfers operator said introducing a 200,000 Shillings penalty for exceeding 100km/h on the expressway is uncalled-for, adding police should instead be sensitizing drivers on how to use the duo carriage. “Minus the one exit at Kajansi, the rest is a free way meant for high speed,” he said.
Others complained of slow drivers who drive on the right or outer lane which is otherwise meant for overtaking. “Teach people to always keep left unless overtaking. That’s more useful than speed limits on an express highway. I am waiting to see the arrest of ministers’ cars which are always at 180km/h,” said another motorist.
Some motorists said they opt for the expressway and even pay 5,000 shillings for a one-way journey, just to spend less time between Kampala and Entebbe, but that this development now removes that advantage. “This is the beginning of the death of this expressway; an expressway is a speedway. Stop being primitive because they can eliminate accidents just by installing AI boards with cameras that instruct drivers to slow down where necessary,” said Adam Masaba, a motorist.
Allan Ssempebwa, Manager of Media Relations at UNRA said the efforts dubbed “Operation Fika Salama Extra” will continue, with the main purpose being sensitization of the road users. The lowest speed limit on the expressway is 50km/h while when approaching an exit one is limited to drive at 40km/h and at 20km/h at a toll point, according to UNRA.
UNRA explained that the term expressway has nothing to do with speed but it ensures that there are no intersections along the road, allowing the motorist to drive seamlessly. In comparison with other countries, the Nairobi Expressway’s highest speed limit is 80km/h, while the fastest one can drive on another road in the country is 110km/hr.
Expressways in India have the upper limit of 120km/h, Singapore 90km/h, and New Zealand 110km/h. In the US and the UK, drivers are allowed speeds of not more than 113km/h, meaning that expressways to world over have maximum speed limits. Some cited Germany’s Autobahn where there are no speed limits, calling for the expressway to also be a speed limit-free drive.
Kiyaga Edwin Raymond, the Highway Engineer at UNRA said the speed limits on the M3 were determined in line with the road’s design for safety’s sake. He said that the Expressway is designed with safety in mind for those who maintain a speed of 100 km/h. Driving beyond this speed, he said, reduces one’s sight’s stopping distance, increasing the risk of accidents.
“There are a number of corners along the Kampala Entebbe route where, if a large stone were placed around the corner and you were traveling at speeds over 100km/h, your reaction time wouldn’t be sufficient, potentially causing you to veer off the Expressway. These corners feature a radius of 800m,” he warned.
Explaining the commonly cited Germany’s Autobahn, Kiyaga called the road the country’s heritage, meaning it is unique globally, but that it still has its limitations, with drivers advised to stay within the 130km/h limits. “With an advisory speed of 130km/h, the Autobahn sets itself apart as a unique thoroughfare where drivers are granted the autonomy to determine their pace, yet the unspoken understanding is that this privilege comes with a significant responsibility,” says Eng Kiyaga.
He, however, says that this seeming freedom road for speed enthusiasts comes with “a crucial caveat”. “The absence of a prescribed speed limit doesn’t absolve drivers of accountability. If one chooses to exceed the advised speed threshold and subsequently encounters an unfortunate accident, they bear the responsibility not only for the damages incurred but also for the subsequent costs.”
UNRA’s Ssempebwa said that at the end of the first day of the Fika Salaama Xtra operation, the highest speed offender was recorded driving at 150km/h. This was by a female driver of a Subaru vehicle.