Night Driving in Uganda: Important Things to Know

Driving in Uganda at night is more dangerous than driving during the day! For foreigh drivers as well as locals who are unfamiliar with the roads they are driving on, you are advised not to drive beyond 8.00PM.

We advise visitors against driving beyond 8.00PM because of the following reasosn;

  • Most of Uganda’s rural areas are not well lit (with some areas relying on natural light!).
  • There are also chances of finding unlicensed road users using the absence of traffic officers to also hit the road thus increasing accident risks! – You will easily find cars and trucks with no headlights,drunk drivers etc.
  • There are also other safety risks – highway robbery and theft cases

To improve your safety on the road at night, here are essential guidelines to follow:

  • Make sure your windscreen and lights are clean
  • Never wear dark glasses
  • Watch for pedestrians and cyclists – they are harder to see at night especially the boda boda riders who jump into the road from any corner.
  • Stop and rest if you are sleepy
  • Don’t blind other drivers with your vehicle’s headlights – dip them when vehicles are coming towards you or when you are following another vehicle
  • If you are blinded by the lights of oncoming vehicles, please slow down or stop

Try to keep your eyes on the left side of the road, so you’re not looking directly at the light

  • Drive at a speed that means you can see the road at least two seconds ahead.In an area without street lighting, use full beam as appropriate to increase your range of visibility

When to use headlights

You must turn on your vehicle’s headlights:

  • from 30 minutes after sunset on one day, until 30 minutes before sunrise on the next day
  • At any other time when you can’t clearly see a person or vehicle 100 metres away.

Never drive with just the park lights on and park lights are now referred to as position lights.

When to dip your vehicle’s headlights

You must dip your vehicle’s headlights:

  • when other vehicles are coming towards you, so that you don’t blind the oncoming driver
  • when you are following other vehicles
  • when you are approaching a police officer who is directing traffic
  • When parked. If there is plenty of street light, you should be able to drive with your headlights dipped the whole time.

At night, just as during the daytime, you must drive at a safe speed. This means that on a road with lanes, you must be able to stop in the length of clear road you can see in front of you and on a road with no lanes; you must be able to stop in half the length of clear road you can see in front of you.

At night, most road signs are highly reflective, your lights shining on them may make you think you can clearly see further than you really can. Make sure you drive more slowly and carefully at night, particularly on unfamiliar roads especially those driving to National parks.

Giving Way on Ugandan Roads

While driving, It is very important to know the give way rules to avoid any dangers on the road.Giving way means that the road user you’re giving way to whether they are a driver, cyclist, pedestrian or any other kind of road user..

At many intersections traffic is controlled by Stop signs, Give Way signs and traffic signals. See below for when to use the give way rules at these intersections. If a police officer is directing traffic you must obey his/her directions as they overrule the give way rules.

Driving up to an intersection

If any other vehicle is approaching or crossing an intersection, do not speed up when approaching. As you drive up to an intersection, use the system of car control. This method helps you deal with hazards safely.

An intersection is where two or more streets or roads join or cross. Intersections can include where a public entrance or exit joins a street or road.

Intersections can include entrances to and exits from supermarkets, petrol stations and other public parking areas, such as airports and hospitals. There are a number of different types of intersections, depending on how many roads meet at the intersection.

Road users must stop or give way as necessary at Stop signs, Give Way signs and traffic signals.

If you are turning, give way to vehicles not turning. Note: if you are leaving the path of a marked centre line, you are deemed to be turning and must give way to vehicles that are following the centre line.

If you are turning right, give way to all vehicles coming towards you including those turning left. Note: this applies if both vehicles are facing no signs or signals or the same signs or signals.

At a T-intersection or driveway, traffic on a terminating road or driveway (bottom of the T) must give way to all traffic on a continuing road (top of the T).

In all other situations, give way to all vehicles coming from your right, eg at a crossroad controlled by traffic signals, when the signals have failed and all approaches have flashing yellow lights.

When two vehicles are coming towards each other and both are turning right, no one should have to give way.

This is because normally neither will cross the other’s path, so both vehicles can turn safely. However, be careful if the other vehicle is a large truck or bus, as they may need more room to make the turn.

Remember to check for traffic coming towards you that is going straight through the intersection. Your view might be blocked by the turning vehicle.

At an intersection controlled by a Give Way sign:

  • slow down and be ready to stop
  • give way to all other vehicles, except those facing a Stop sign
  • if you and another vehicle are both facing a Give Way sign, use the give way .
  • you must not go until it is safe.
  • A triangle give way marking and a white line will be painted on a sealed road.
  • A car facing a Stop sign gives way to a car facing a Give Way sign.
  • If you are turning, give way to all traffic that is not turning.This includes giving way to cyclists using cycle and bus lanes, and vehicles using bus lanes.
  • If you are turning right and the opposing vehicle is turning left, you must give way.
  • If the road you are on terminates (bottom of the T), give way to traffic on the continuing road
  • You must give way to all traffic on the road and any road user on a footpath, cycle path or shared path.
  • In all other situations give way to your right. An example would be at an uncontrolled intersection or crossroads controlled by traffic signals when signals have failed and all approaches have a flashing yellow light.

Traffic signals

The following rules apply at an intersection controlled by traffic lights on Uganda’s roads.

A red signal means stop.

A green signal means you can go, provided it is safe and: if you are turning right, you give way to vehicles coming towards you that are going straight through, or vehicles turning left. You give way to pedestrians crossing. This includes riders of mobility devices and wheeled recreational devices.

A yellow signal means stop, unless you are so close to the intersection that you can’t stop safely. A yellow signal indicates that the lights will soon turn red.

A flashing yellow signal means the traffic signals are not working. In this case, you must apply the give way rules for uncontrolled intersections.

When arrows are displayed on traffic signals, they apply only to vehicles going in the direction the arrow is pointing. For example:

A red arrow means you must stop if you are travelling in the direction the arrow is pointing.

A yellow arrow means you must stop if you are travelling in the direction the arrow is pointing, unless you are so close to the intersection that you can’t stop safely.

A green arrow means you can go if you are travelling in the direction the arrow is pointing, provided it is safe.

Green arrow

Giving way at Roundabouts

A roundabout is a central island in the middle of an intersection, where all vehicles must travel to the left of the island. Roundabouts can be small, large, single-laned or multi-laned. The number of roads that come into a roundabout can range from three to five or even more.

Single-laned roundabouts

When you come up to a roundabout that has only one lane in each direction: slow down as you come up to the roundabout and be prepared to give way .give way to all vehicles that will cross your path from your right as you enter the roundabout.

Most roundabouts that have more than one lane in each direction are marked with lanes and arrows, which help you enter and leave the roundabout. The lane markings and arrows will tell you which lane to use.

Not all roundabouts are marked the same way, so take extra care – especially at the exits. If you need to cross from one lane to another near an exit, give way to any vehicles in the lane that you want to enter.

When coming up to a multi-laned roundabout, slow down as you come up to the roundabout and be prepared to give way.

  • be in the correct lane for where you want to go
  • Give way to all vehicles that will cross your path from your right as you enter the roundabout.
  • At roundabouts, look out for vehicles that:
  • may have to change lanes to exit
  • may not be able to stay in their lane because they are:
  • large (for example, buses)
  • Travelling too fast.

Essential Car Flashing Light Signals Used in Uganda

Car Headlight Flashing is common in Uganda. If you are not used to Ugandan roads, you may not easily understand the lights used by drivers. From simple “traffic officers ahead” lights to “safety Signals”, it is important to understand the meaning behind these signals so that you can enjoy your journey in Uganda. Below, one of our experienced drivers, Ken Mugisha, shares the common essential headlight signals used!

While on the road, fellow drivers can use the lighting signal to you so you need to interpret it not to fall into danger, some of the signs include:

  • Hello Lights – These are common in Uganda. Fellow drivers can easily warn you about prescence of traffic officers so that you cannot be get offside!
  • If an emergency vehicle such as an ambulance, fire engine or police car is coming towards you or behind you. Most ambulances have sirens and/or flash red, blue, or blue and red lights. In Uganda, ambulances, police cars and some few VIP cars have right of way. You must pull over and if necessary, stop to allow such vehicles pass. Remember in breach of these traffic laws you can be arrested by Police and issued with a fine.
  • If a police car is following you with its siren on and/or flashing blue or blue and red lights it is advisable to pull over and stop as soon as possible. If asked by Police, you must give the following to a police officer: your name, address and date of birth, your driver license. You can also call our operations department in case further details are needed by the Police Officer. Please note that you are reponsible for any driver violation of the traffic laws regarding usage of the vehicle, such as driving without a license or over speeding, wrongly parking your rented vehicle, overloading etc.
  • If a vehicle is following you with flashing blue lights, you must pull over and stop as soon as possible. Flashing blue lights are used by customs officers in Uganda. These people have the right to stop vehicles. This is not common though it can be done!
  • Doctors, nurses or midwives on urgent business may use a roof-mounted green flashing light. If you see these, you must pull over and allow the vehicle to pass.
  • When service vehicles, such as tow trucks and road maintenance vehicles, use flashing yellow lights, they are warning you to be careful around them. When you see these lights, slow down and be prepared to stop, if necessary. Please note that you can easily find road maintenance vehicles and you must follow their traffic control mechanisms.
  • Oversize vehicles may use flashing yellow lights and pilot vehicles may use flashing yellow and purple lights. These mean you must pull over and, if necessary, stop, and let all the vehicles pass.
  • Red flashing signals outside a fire station or airport mean you must stop and remain stopped until the lights stop flashing.

HINT: If you do not understand the meaning of any lights displayed by any vehicle on the road please follow what the traffic officer is instructing you to do.:

Essential Car Turning Tips for Uganda Drivers

Turning can be dangerous, because it usually means you have to cross the path of other vehicles. Remember turning traffic gives way to traffic that is not turning.

To legally and safely make a left or right turn, do a thorough check for other vehicles – in front, behind and to the sides

-Remember to check over your shoulder for your blind spots the areas of road to the sides of your car that you can’t see in your mirrors.

-watch for pedestrians

-Signal for at least three seconds.

-If you are turning left, use your left indicator. If you are turning right, use your right indicator.

Be prepared to stop, even if the other driver should give way to you.

-When turning or changing lanes remember to always check your blind spots.

Turning from a driveway

If you are driving out of a driveway, slow down to a complete stop at the end of the driveway.

-Check the road and footpath for pedestrians, vehicles and other hazards

-Give way to anyone using the footpath, cyclists using a cycle path or cycle lane, vehicles on the road, including vehicles turning right into the driveway.

Making a left turn

If you are turning left into another street or driveway, stay in the left-turn lane or keep to the left side of the road

-slow down before you turn

-Check your mirrors and your blind spot

-Signal for at least three seconds.

Making a U-turn

  • You are normally allowed to make U-turns, as long as the road is clear in both directions and it is safe to do so. Make sure you have enough room to complete the turn and don’t create a hazard for oncoming vehicles.
  • Please note that you aren’t allowed to make U-turns if a ‘No U-turn’ sign is displayed.
  • While on Ugandan roads, Please turn when it is safe.

Areas Where Not to Park Your Car in Uganda

For your own safety, and the safety and convenience of other road users in Uganda, there are certain areas where you must not park. You risk being fined or having your vehicle towed away if you park in these areas therefore you must not park or stop your vehicle:

  • on the right-hand side of the road, except in a one-way street
  • Where it will be in the way of other people using the road including the pedestrians and other drivers.
  • near a corner, curve, hill, or intersection because it will stop other people from seeing along the road
  • on the road, you can park the vehicle off the road without damaging grass or gardens .Kampala capital city authority -a controlling authority may has laws prohibiting parking on a grass verge.
  • on any footpath
  • closer than 6 metres to an intersection, unless there are parking spaces or a notice telling you that you can park there
  • Closer than 6 metres to the approach side of a pedestrian crossing.
  • on a marked bus stop or taxi stop stand
  • in front of a vehicle entrance point
  • alongside another parked vehicle – that is, you must not double-park
  • on ‘no stopping’ lines -broken yellow lines marked within 1 metre of the edge of the road, which you may see near pedestrian crossings, intersections, driveways or narrow roads
  • where traffic signs say you must not stop or park
  • Where a sign says that part of the road is reserved for specified kinds of vehicles for example, bus, taxi or goods service vehicles – in many cases, this restriction is marked by a broken yellow line.
  • In a bus or transit lane during the hours of operation as indicated by signs
  • on, or closer than 500mm to, a fire hydrant, unless somebody who can move the vehicle stays with it

Therefore you should have consideration for other road users. You must leave sufficient room between your vehicle and any adjacent parked vehicles to allow easy access.

6 Things To Check Before Starting Your Car While on a Road Trip in Uganda

Driving Tricks before you start your car in Uganda

Before driving a car in Uganda, do a simple safety check.

  • Turn on the lights and walk around the vehicle to ensure that all lights are in working order.
  • Check your blinkers for proper operation.
  • Look for any fluid leaks or things hanging from the vehicle.
  • Check that the tires are properly inflated.
  • When you get into the car, adjust all mirrors and seats before placing the key in the ignition. To properly adjust the left mirror place your head against the left window and adjust the mirror so that you can just see the left side of the car. For the right, move your head towards the center of the vehicle and adjust the right mirror in the same way. When you are sitting correctly in the driver’s seat, you will not be able to see your vehicle, but your blind spots will be greatly reduced.
  • Always wear your seatbelts; having no seat belt is a traffic offence!

As simple as that. Then you can begin the driving.