New Road Traffic Act expected in 2015
After a period of consultation, the revised Road Traffic Act is expected to be passed into law next year. It has been a long time coming and, certainly from the point of view of those charged with leading road-safety initiatives, eagerly awaited.
However, when some of the penalties proposed under the legislation were made public earlier this year, the hefty fines raised significant concern. Timothy Cawley, in a letter to the editor in July, put it in no uncertain terms:
"The new Road Traffic Act tabled before Parliament has several increases in fines in the hope that it will deter persons from committing offences, but it will only serve to intimidate motorists, encourage the illegal activities of police officers, and leave more vehicles parked at homes.
It is incredulous to impose fine increases, in many cases, of between 100 and 1,150 per cent. It is highly unethical to impose higher ratios of fines should a motorist wish to take his case to Traffic Court. You cannot deter a motorist from taking his case to court because the system is overburdened; the courts are institutions of justice. Instead of trying to turn people away, fix it!
The only deterrent this system will foster is a reluctance to drive motor vehicles. If the average Jamaican can barely afford petrol, how will he or she afford a fine of $250,000?
We all want a safer road transport system, but this is not the best route. Wheel and come again!"
On the other hand, the revised act is seen as a critical part of pushing fatalities down. In May, The Gleaner reported Victor Anderson, NRSC coordinator for the Below 240 Programme, as saying that "traffic fines will be higher and more offences will be payable at the collectorate and not require court appearance. Also, the Island Traffic Authority will be properly authorised to suspend or revoke driver's licences for exceeding demerit points thresholds."
For new drivers, Anderson said, "Trainees must undergo a minimum period of instruction by a certified instructor (and) pass the road code test before being allowed to learn to drive."
Anderson said handheld traffic-ticketing devices would speed up the process and ensure that the ticketing database was updated in real time.
It had been hoped that the new act would be in force this year; however, it is almost a certainty that it will be passed neaxt year, maybe in the current fiscal year.