A week after a citizen petitioned Parliament seeking to amend the law on acquisition of driving licences to allow for the use of automatic cars, The New Times has learnt that it could be a while before the petitioner get a response.
In a letter addressed to the Speaker of Parliament, and copied to the President of the Senate, the Minister for Justice and the Inspector General of Police, the petitioner, Frank Shumbusho, argues that there are many people who own automatic cars and know how to drive them but are unable to do so because sitting for a driving exam requires one to have knowledge of a manual car.
Shumbusho offered a solution: those who sit for the driving exam could be issued a permit that clearly indicates that their abilities were limited to automatic cars.
“Statitics indicate that there are not many plants producing manual cars. In fact, in many developed countries, big cars like buses and longhaul trucks, are required to be automatic, to not only to make it easier for those who drive them, but to also make the exercise less tiring,” the letter reads, in part.
Should the law be amended to enable driving license exams to be conducted using automatic vehicles?
— The New Times (Rwanda) (@NewTimesRwanda) April 17, 2018
So what next after the petition?
MP Theobald Mporanyi told The New Times in a telephone interview that, upon reception, the petition is handed to the Bureau of Presidents, which consists of the Speaker and the two deputies, and that the next steps are determined thereafter.
“What happens is that the petition goes to the concerned chamber of Parliament’s President’s Bureau and it is them to determine if the issue can go straight to plenary or if the committee concerned with the issue can scrutinise it first,” he said.
Mporanyi said that, should the petition go to the committee and found to be relevant, the petitioner or any other stakeholder deemed valuable to beefing up the idea can be invited to make more contributions.
Thereafter, the committee then compiles a report and presents it to Members of the Parliament and a decision is made on the next step.
“What usually happens is that the MPs will decide whether the petition should be accepted or rejected. If it’s accepted, this means that either the law that concerns the subject matter will be changed or a new law will be drafted,” he said.
Mporanyi said that petitioning the parliament is not unusual and said that those who have issues of public interest to raise are always welcome.
“There used to be many people who would petition parliament on issues of personal nature but they have reduced because MPs make field trips and get to meet them in their areas. What the parliament encourages are more people to contribute ideas of public interest to the House and they will be looked into. To me, that is democracy and the epitome of self-expression, “he said.
What the law says about automatic cars
The current law only recognises manual cars while conducting driving tests and any change to that effect would require changing the law.
In an interview with Senior Superintendent of Police Jean-Marie Vianney Ndunshabandi, the spokesperson for Traffic and Road Safety Department of Rwanda National Police, if parliament values the petition and finds merit in rush to changing the law, that is within their powers.
However, he said that given Rwanda’s topography, there is need for drivers of both manual and automatic cars.
He pointed out that the spirit of the regulations is to ensure that a driver seeking a permit in a specific capacity, get the highest category.
Police had previously maintained that if a person is taught using a manual car, they have the ability to drive both automatic and manual, but an automatic car would limit the cars a driver can operate.
What the public says
In a poll published on The New Times social media platforms, when asked whether the law should be amended to enable driving license exams to be conducted using automatic vehicles, 74 per cent of the respondents by yesterday evening answered ‘yes’ while 24 per cent answered ‘No’.
Commenting about the poll, majority members of the public said that the issue should not be up for debate, saying that the law should be amended to allow for those with automatic cars to get driving licence.
In many developed countries you bring your own vehicle, whether it is an automatic or manual transmission it's up to the driver as long as you shaw competency and follow the rules you get your license, it doesn't have to be complicated.
— Charles Gikwerere (@CGikwerere) April 17, 2018
Charles Gikwerere said that, in many developed countries, a candidate is allowed to bring the car of their choice.
“In many developed countries you bring your own vehicle, whether it is an automatic or manual transmission it’s up to the driver. As long as you show competence and follow the rules you get your licence, it doesn’t have to be complicated,” he said.
A growing number of countries are making it optional, with others limiting the choices to only non-commercial drivers.
The adjustments appear to be following technological trends in the automobile industry with some car manufacturers completely ditching production of the manual cars.
Market prices for manual cars are also dropping compared to similar models that are automatic as both younger and older drivers prefer effortless driving.