Uganda police to impound taxis, buses with tinted windows

Speed limit enforcement starts on Entebbe Expressway
Traffic police in action at the Entebbe Expressway

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The Ministry of Works and Transport has directed traffic police to seize all public service vehicles equipped with tinted windows.

Winston Katushabe, the Commissioner for Transport Regulation and Road Safety, issued the directive during the launch of next year’s road safety campaign in Kampala, focusing on the theme “Stay Aware, Stay Alive: Road Safety for All.”

Katushabe emphasized that public service vehicles, including taxis, coasters, or buses, should have windows with sufficient visibility for passengers to facilitate easy identification by law enforcement officers. He highlighted that tinting these vehicles could create an impression of involvement in criminal activities such as smuggling contraband.

Additionally, Katushabe warned against obstructing visibility with images of politicians or celebrities and advertisements on windows and number plates.

Michael Kananura, the traffic police spokesperson, reiterated that nationwide operations targeting traffic law violators are currently underway. He emphasized that no one will be exempted from enforcement, given the extensive prior awareness campaigns through media and meetings with leaders and operators of all forms of public transport.

“We have started operations to ensure we have safe roads during the festive season,” Kananura stated. December usually witnesses a surge in traffic-related fatalities and injuries, with daily road deaths increasing from the typical 11 to 12 people to 14 or more per day. This rise is attributed to heightened excitement, increased travel, speeding, and drunk driving.

Siraje Mutyaba, a driver and representative of public transporters, appealed to the police and the Ministry of Works to prioritize educating individuals about regulations concerning tinting or displaying images on public service vehicles. This proactive approach, according to Mutyaba, would enhance awareness and promote compliance with the established rules.

“You cannot wake up one day and start arresting drivers and boda bodas for putting images on the vehicles without sensitizing them. They should at least spend one-month educating people in the laws,” Mutyaba said. 

Furthermore, parents were cautioned against allowing children below the age of 12 to occupy the co-driver’s seats, as it exposes them to severe injury or death in case of an accident.

“Some people want to go and show people in the villages that they have bought new cars. Some put children on the steering claiming they are showing them love. You must not carry children in the front seats. You must have child restraints,” Katushabe said.

Balancing privacy and safety: The growing trend of window tinting in Uganda

In recent years, the practice of window tinting in vehicles has evolved from intermittent, lighter shades to bolder choices with significantly darker tints. While earlier variations allowed more than 70% of light, the current trend leans towards shades that permit as little as 5% light penetration.

The motivation behind the surge in tinting preferences, particularly for darker shades, is rooted in the desire for enhanced privacy and security among vehicle owners. The belief that potential thieves are deterred from breaking into a car when the contents are not easily visible underscores the significance of this trend in both privacy and security realms.

Beyond the privacy and security concerns, users advocate for window tinting for various reasons. Some assert that tinted windows reduce glare, maintain a cooler interior, and protect the vehicle’s upholstery from the damaging effects of direct sunlight.

Additionally, the aesthetics of a tinted vehicle are often cited as a reason for this growing trend. In certain instances, medical conditions such as sunburn, lupus, sunlight allergy, photosensitivity, and melanoma skin cancer prompt vehicle users to opt for tinted windows.

Remarkably, Uganda currently lacks legislation prohibiting any form of window tinting, distinguishing it from other jurisdictions where restrictions are imposed.

However, there is a notable downside to the increasing prevalence of window tinting. While most new cars come with a standard level of tint designed to mitigate harmful ultraviolet light, additional tints applied by specialists can alter the glass’s reaction in the event of an accident.

Unlike standard vehicle windows designed to shatter into small, harmless fragments upon impact, tinted windows hold the glass more securely, posing potential dangers to drivers and passengers in the aftermath of an accident.

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Moreover, the application of extreme tints, such as the “limo” tint that allows less than 5% light transmission, raises safety concerns. Heavy tinting, in general, has been linked to impeded driver visibility, particularly at night, obstructing the ability to see road signs and increasing the likelihood of overlooking pedestrians and cyclists.

The diminished visibility caused by dark tints impedes crucial non-verbal communication between motorists and others on the road, such as pedestrians and cyclists. Challenges in making eye contact, gesturing, and interpreting non-verbal cues during interactions create potential hazards, especially in scenarios where the right of way needs to be negotiated.

In light of these considerations, it becomes evident that the evolving trend of window tinting in Uganda poses a delicate balance between privacy preferences and safety on the road. As the debate around the potential hazards gains momentum, it remains to be seen whether regulatory measures will be implemented to address the growing concerns associated with window tinting practices in the country.