Right of way

Who Has the Right of Way on Uganda’s Roads?

Sometime in January, a well-learned and respected retired former Supreme Court Judge, Hon. Justice George Kanyeihamba was involved in a verbal altercation with another road user whom the former judge’s driver had collided with. It was such a sight when the keeper of the law was filmed uttering uncouth words to the motorist whose car was affected by his driver. The press had a field day.

It is not unusual for motorists to collide and exchange blows, business cards or liability. The road system in Uganda has main roads and adjacent roads but the main roads are infested with traffic jam from motorists and pedestrians. There is no clear demarcation of motor roads and pedestrian roads on most highways. Often, motorists veer off into pedestrian lanes. Boda boda cyclists use pedestrian lanes and the whole road system becomes a mess.

It is also a common sight to see state licensed vehicles siren, overtake other motorists or use opposite lanes on roads.

But who has the right of way on Uganda’s roads?


Emergency situations of any kind require a right of way. The exceptions of vehicles or persons with a right of way are provided under section 123 of the Traffic and Road Safety Act. They include;

  • Ambulances in an emergency like transporting a patient, drugs, blood or other body parts required in a hospital;
  • Police patrol cars and military vehicles on a mission or whilst escorting a special army official;
  • Government vehicles transporting the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Speaker and Deputy Speaker, Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice and vehicles from the Central Bank of Uganda;
  • Pedestrians in their lane;
  • Private vehicles in emergency situations.

The amended Traffic & Road Safety Act informs us that private vehicles, ministers, army officials, senior government officials, traditional leaders or commercial institution vehicles do not have this right of way.

For avoidance of doubt, should you wish to know the specific law on right of way, please read what section 123 below says on emergency motor vehicles.

(1)          Notwithstanding this Act and subject to this section, the driver of an authorised emergency motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant may, where the observance of this Act would be likely to hinder the use of an authorised emergency motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant for the purpose for which it is being used—

(a) park or stand in any place on a road, whether that place is a parking place;

(b) after slowing down, as may be necessary for safe operation, proceed past a red or stop sign;

(c) exceed the prescribed speed limit, so long as he or she does not endanger life or property; or

(d) disregard any regulation governing direction of movement or turning in a specified direction.

(2)          The exemption granted by this section to an authorised emergency motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant shall apply only when the driver of the motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant, while in motion, sounds an audible signal by bell, siren or exhaust whistle, as may be reasonably necessary, or, if the motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant is equipped with the flashing beacon of a type prescribed by the Minister, is exhibiting a light visible under normal atmospheric conditions from a distance of one hundred and fifty meters to the front of the motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant.

(3)          This section does not relieve the driver of an authorised emergency motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant from the duty to drive with due regard and care for the safety of persons or property, nor protect the driver from consequences of his or her disregard for the safety of such persons or property.

(4)          Upon the immediate approach of an authorised emergency motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant, the driver of every other motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant shall, except when otherwise directed by a police officer in uniform, give the right of way, and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the left-hand edge of the curb of the roadway, clear of any intersection, and shall stop and remain in that position until the authorised emergency motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant has passed.

(5)                         For the purposes of this section, “authorised emergency motor vehicle” means a motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant for the purposes of the police, fire brigade, ambulances, the military motor vehicles of the armed forces and such other motor vehicles, trailers or engineering plant as may be designated by the Minister in consultation with the chief licensing officer by statutory order.

(6)          A person who fails to comply with this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of not less than fifteen currency points [equivalent to 20,000/=] and not exceeding sixty currency points or imprisonment of not less than six months and not exceeding two years or both.

Now, you know!


This article appears in our law newsletter Vol 3 Issue 2 of March 10th 2018. To receive The Deuteronomy in real time, click HERE

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