A decision to pull out all breathalyser checks in Nairobi County on Monday for a review has sparked excitement among drivers on whether senior police management has finally realised that most roadblocks are used as extortion tools to get bribes while letting drunks lose.
Drivers in Nairobi were Friday debating online over the possibility of a weekend night without the gadgets on the road as it remained unclear whether there would be roadblocks in a city that has consistently had the deadliest roads in the country.
Police bosses in Nairobi were last Sunday ordered to return all breathalyser kits in their jurisdictions to traffic headquarters until further notice.
“Please note that even as we await written instructions, from today going forward there will be no alcohol blow checks in the county until further notice,” sub-county commanders were told on Sunday.
“This being the case all the Alcohol Blow gadgets will be handed over in writing to Traffic Commander on Monday on or before 1000 hours without fail,” read the internal memo.
It was unclear whether the roadblocks had been returned by last night, but it is said that a senior police officer was shocked at the level of corruption on the Alcoblow checks during an impromptu tour last Saturday night.
While the checks are supposed to weed out drunk drivers by placing them under custody till the next morning when they could sober up and be charged, corrupt police officers have turned the them into money-minting ventures where they rake in thousands of shillings per night.
Section 44(1) of the Traffic Act says that those found driving under the influence are liable to pay between Sh20,000 and Sh50,000 if found guilty. Corrupt police officers are, however, letting drunk drivers off the hook for as little as Sh2,000 if they are able to raise the money at the roadblock.
Those who cannot raise the money are taken to police stations, where they are slapped with Sh20,000 fines in the morning and an additional Sh7,000 for towing if they are arrested in Nairobi. The money is split between duty officers and bosses at the station.
There is talk already about the idea of returning the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to the roads as a remedy for the rampant police corruption.
NTSA was removed from the roads in December last year on the orders of President Uhuru Kenyatta after the Christmas period witnessed a huge upsurge in accidents.
But even after NTSA left, available data shows that the number of deaths on the roads has shot up this year.
The total number of traffic accident fatalities rose by about 15 percent since last year, which had 2,021 deaths. At least 2,326 people have been reported to have died on Kenyan roads in the past 12 months.