Rumors has it that some international (not to say foreign) drivers are wary of driving around Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. That might be a little exaggeration, may be intended to trick drivers of Addis, to make them more cautious in their driving, sometimes a tempting way of utilizing their hospitality for god end. Still some statistics has identified Addis (and Ethiopia, we should assume, because: significant percentage of cars in Ethiopia is located in Addis or its surroundings) as a place where traffic accidents are frequent. The story seems destined to be changing these days, at least by common sense standard. The administration seems to have taken note of concerns in traffic accidents and has been taking strict measures to make the roads of Addis safer. It has more than once set more hours and forms of training for prospective licensees, which some say is becoming too expensive in terms of time and money. And to the disappointment of new applicants, the administration had also temporarily suspended issuance of new licenses for a while until, one might assume, the administration overhauled the procedure for issuance.

More interesting is the new “Road Traffic Safety Regulations of the Addis Ababa City Government No 27/2009” that became effective at the end of 2009 (December 2009). It was published in the Addis Negari Gazeta, the official legal publication for laws issued by the city administration. After restating the previous rules, the new law brought forward novel rules aiming at the reduction of road accidents, which, as indicated earlier, are threatening the good names of Addis: the Capital City of Africa; and the second home to many Africans (Ask civil servants of the African Union, embassies and international organizations in Addis and they will tell you more!).

 

The issuance of the Regulations has many rationales. As the preamble states, "loss of life, property, and economy of the city due to traffic accidents has reached critical level" (an honest admission on the part of the administration). The emergence of new technology, the appearance of new traffic offences, and the "level of development and modern traffic system" were all recognized as rationales for the issuance of the Regulations.

Although the Regulations, which repeal previous similar regulations, are principally directed towards drivers (e.g. prohibition of use of mobile phones while driving), some of them aim at controlling movements and actions of pedestrians (e.g. crossing a road where it is not permitted), contractors (e.g. blocking pedestrians' road), vagrants (for example, those who might tamper with traffic signs), etc. Depending on their gravity, seven categories of offences were identified (calling for fees ranging between 60 and 700). New offences are added to existing offences (you could see the list of new offences at the end), fees were increased (20 Birr increment in fees for all categories), and a totally new seventh category (very grave traffic offence) is introduced inviting the highest fees in the Regulations (from 300 to 700 Birr). In addition to fines, temporary suspension (e.g. 3 months) and revocation / cancellation of a driving license (for recidivism) are also other forms of penalties.

One might wonder as to the real impacts of the Regulations. Obviously the issuance of new rules is not (and should not be) all. Their implementation has to be ensured. One challenge to implementation would be lack of the means (or the technology) to enforce the rules. How does, for example, a traffic controller know if someone has taken drug/chat/ or any other prohibited substance while driving? Two, should the new Regulations make us forget how ugly corruption is in the issuance of driving licenses and the enforcement of traffic regulations? Probably, the most notorious places for corrupt practices are these two. Holders of driving licenses (you could ask anyone you know) are eager to recount incidents of unashamed and daring requests for bribe by officers involved in issuance of driving licenses (sadly not many of applicants for the license would say no.) Again we could take note of the sorry stories of auto drivers who have violated traffic rules: how trivial amount of money (bribe!) would ease their encounters with traffic controllers. Moreover, how much is the society aware of and ready to abide by these rules? Also, does the administration have enough capacity (usually human resources) to ensure the implementation of these regulations?

That said, the Regulations would definitely improve the driving and walking and crossing habits of residents. If they were implemented with emphasis on awareness raising – loud speaker announcements around busy roads regarding rules of the road for the first few days (or weeks?) were commendable - the regulations would be crucial in standardizing traffic regulations in the city, changing the tradition in the use of roads and in creating a city which is safe to drive (and walk). The coercive power of the law should also be helpful. It is becoming frequent to see pedestrians being asked to show their identification for unlawfully crossing the ring road or the now famous Nation, Nationalities, and Peoples Square. Although early to judge, some pedestrians seem to be unusually diligent in looking for the Zebra Road (Beware traffic regulators! If pedestrians cannot find their zebra road, they might claim all the roads to be theirs!)

Finally - before the list of the new rules - let us put out our bet ("Are you serious?" Do not ask!) Would the Regulations (especially the new rules) improve the situation of traffic in Addis? Yes indeed! But how long do you think it will take for us to feel the real impacts of the Regulations: a year or two or more?

 

New Rules of the Regulations

(If you are interested in the whole list of offences and penalties, you could look at the Amharic version of the regulation.

Category I (60 Birr fine):

For pedestrians:

Crossing a road forbidden,

Crossing a road (including a ring road) at a place other than permitted,

Taking vehicles' roads when there is a road for pedestrians,

Trading on the road;

For drivers:

Failure to carry first aid kit,

Sprinkling water on pedestrians [Rejoice pedestrians for the rainy season!],

Failure to remove broken parts of a car after collision;

Category II (80 Birr fine):

Driving below standard speed [Do we have a minimum speed limit?];

Moving driven carriages on the main road [What will happen to diligent garbage collectors and Coca/Pepsi distributors?];

Failure to keep one's lane;

Category III (100 Birr fine):

Erecting anything that impairs drivers’ sights;

Failure to reinstate a road after digging [This must have been addressed to .... guess who? Shouldn't we pick names?];

Category V (140 Birr fine) [Category IV does not have new rules]:

Disobedience of a policeman or volunteer;

Letting below-sevens in the front seat;

Using traffic signs without authorization; [brought from category II in the previous Regulations];

Category VI (160 Birr fine):

Driving while drunk or having drug or ‘chat’ or ‘shisha’) (only 'smoking shisha' is a new);

Using earphone (to listen to radio);

Using mobile phone in whatever form while driving;

Driving without seat belt (for everybody in the car);

Driving with excessive sound of radio, CD player or tape;

Driving while watching television or video;

Giving or letting others give money to beggars / doing or letting others do commercial activity on the road;

Distorting or changing the essence or the direction of traffic signs;

Affixing notice on traffic signs;

Using a vehicle for a purpose different from normal use;

Category VII (Fine from Birr 300 - 700): These offences are one or more of the offences in the other categories (for example, driving beyond speed, driving outside road, etc) together with causing damages to property (an added element for a traffic offence to fall under this category).

You could write us your comments, questions etc regarding the Regulations and traffic safety in Addis Ababa for wondimagegn@ethiopianlaw.com

Any pertinent information on the subject can be available from an Ethiopian Dispute Resolution lawyer, Ethiopian Criminal Lawyer, Ethiopian Tort Lawyer, Ethiopian Extra Contractual Lawyer, Ethiopian Property Lawyer, Ethiopian Family Lawyer, Ethiopian Accidents & Injuries Lawyer, Ethiopian Professional Faults Lawyer, Ethiopian Loss and Damage Lawyer.