Kenyan motorists will later this month switch to use of digital driving licences, whose rollout is expected to begin ahead of the August 8 elections.
The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) Tuesday said 100,000 of the smart cards have been made in readiness for distribution to motorists.
The NTSA, which is progressively digitising its operations, has acquired 500 card readers to decode user information and traffic offences history. The information will be recorded in a chip that is embedded in the plastic card.
The card comes loaded with points to be deducted every time a motorist commits a traffic offence. Repeat offenders who will have exhausted their points will permanently lose their licences, have them confiscated temporarily, pay spot fines or be made to attend refresher driving classes.
The NTSA now says it is ready to go live with the new licences — whose prototypes leaked out this week — and that final preparations for the launch by President Uhuru Kenyatta is underway.
“The licences will bear details of the holders, including their photos. The chip stores driving histories and serves as a payment wallet connected to the Judiciary,” NTSA’s head of ICT, Fernando Wangila, told the Business Daily.
“Upon its launch later this month, the rollout will be progressively escalated to ensure that we have more card readers on the roads and enough licences printed and ready to meet demand for new applications as well as renewals.”
The points system, widely used in the West to tame drivers, will see each motorist’s card loaded with 20 points that are to be deducted progressively at a rate proportional to the offence committed.
Misdemeanours like overlapping will see drivers lose a single point from their accounts over and above getting fined. A driver will have a week or so to recover this “lost” point if he or she doesn’t commit other offences.
Serious offences like drunk driving and speeding will result in deductions of more than 10 points, fines and a raft of other disciplinary measures that could see one lose their licence for life. The NTSA will also share the information on rogue drivers with insurance firms, a move that could see such drivers’ premiums rise as they will be deemed to be risky clients.
The NTSA in March signed a Ksh2.1 billion ($20 million) contract with the National Bank of Kenya for the manufacture and formulation of the smart licences aimed at revolutionising enforcement of traffic laws.
Dr Wangila said that National Bank is working with Vienna-based digital payment solutions provider Austria Card to supply an undisclosed number of the licences.
The authority reckons there are over three million registered drivers in its database. Over the next three years, the smart driving licences will be distributed to motorists starting with new applicants and those renewing their permits.
Surrender old licences
Drivers holding paperback licences can see out their validity but will get prompted to surrender them to an NTSA office when they come up for renewal in exchange for the new generation version.
Motorists could also voluntarily surrender the old one to a NTSA office and get issued with the new generation version, based on availability.
“By mid-2020, even those who have not proactively requested to get the new licences will have to acquire them through the normal renewal process on e-Citizen,” said Dr Wangila.
The NTSA is increasingly automating enforcement to bring sanity to Kenyan roads where rules are routinely broken under the eye of traffic officers, who prefer bribes to punishing errant drivers.