Sat | Oct 19, 2019

Cedric Stephens | Rescuing the motoring public from chaos

Published:Sunday | October 6, 2019 | 12:23 AM

Today’s column will provide readers, particularly motorists, with a heads-up of what the authorities are doing to reduce the indiscipline and chaos on our roads.

It is very likely that other things are also being done in private that will become public shortly.

My opinion was arrived at based on reviews of public documents and on my observations. I do not have sources in the Ministries of National Security or Transport, the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch, (PSTEB), or the Island Traffic Authority. I am simply connecting a few dots. When viewed together, they provide an outline of the changes that are taking place.

The authorities plan to use the new Road Traffic Act – which replaces the 1938 law – and the ongoing modernisation of the country’s road infrastructure as tools to try to change the ways citizens and motorists use the public road system.

I suspect that this is one of the reasons behind the law’s long gestation period. If I had access to Cabinet papers, I am very sure that I could find evidence to confirm this assertion. The sudden removal of the former PSTEB head, Assistant Commissioner of Police Bishop Dr Gary Welsh, and the stated “zero tolerance” approach to traffic offences are other signs of the changes that are taking place. Presumably, ACP Welsh did not see the big picture.

IVIS is an acronym. It means Insurance Vehicle Identification System. This newspaper reported 18 months ago that the Insurance Association of Jamaica was then undertaking the final phase of testing of the IVIS, which would “allow motorists and other persons involved in accidents to determine whether or not those vehicles are insured”. Other persons included “the police, as well as the tax authorities”. It would allow them to determine the insurance status of a vehicle without relying solely on a printed certificate of insurance.

The system should now be up and running. The stated purpose behind the database will be to reduce the number of uninsured vehicles on the roads. The proposed fine of $20,000 for driving an uninsured vehicle under the new law and increased enforcement activities by the cops are expected to force more motorists to comply with the Motor Vehicles Insurance (Third-Party Risks) Act.

JamaicaEye will also play a part in changing the behaviour of those motorists whose default driving style is to disobey road-traffic rules. The Eye is an islandwide network of 1,000 camera-surveillance systems. The cameras are intended to monitor public spaces and assist the authorities in responding to incidents, disasters, acts of criminality, or accidents. Special features will include the identification of vehicle registration numbers.

Some persons will have seen the installation of CCTV systems at major intersections in Kingston and St Andrew. According to a report in this newspaper, the full roll-out of JamaicaEye was expected to be completed in September. The system will have the capacity to identify vehicles that violate road traffic regulations. JamaicaEye falls under the supervision of the Ministry of National Security.

More details of the capabilities of the system are, therefore, expected to be limited. I would be most surprised if UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles fitted with cameras or drones, are not currently being deployed to monitor ‘hot spots’.

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang signalled last month that “public order and safety will improve significantly with the handover of 80 Yamaha motorcycles to the police”. The motorcycles will aid the mobility of the PSTEB. He also stated that “a revamped ticketing system is set to be rolled out next month. The days of motorists racking up 1,000 traffic tickets would soon be history. As of October 2019, that will change … . This Government will fix the ticketing system. The revamped system will be web-based,” he said. “Public order and public safety will be brought to a new level.”

Chang was referring to The Traffic Ticket Management System (TTMS), which is a web-based application that “will facilitate the management of traffic tickets issued by the police”.

Major features of the TTMS include:

• Matching of tickets with payments;

• Reporting on outstanding tickets;

• Calculation and management of demerit points accumulated against offenders’ driver’s licences;

• Recording of court proceedings related to traffic offences;

• Collection of payments made at the courts for traffic offences;

• Recording and tracking of warrants issued to traffic offenders.

It was not said whether motor insurers would have access to the information stored in relation to the management of demerit points accumulated against offenders’ driver’s licences.

If I were a betting man, I would say that access will be granted in exchange for insurers granting access to the authorities to the latter’s database of insured vehicles. This source of information will give motor insurers the ability to charge more for coverage to repeat traffic offenders.

PSTEB has telegraphed, according to recent reports, that it is targeting motorists with hundreds of unpaid traffic tickets. During the past two weeks, I have read about the arrest of four motorists. They allegedly failed to pay fines in relation to 3,600 traffic violations.

This heads-up concludes with a sample [see graphic] of some of the offences and penalties or fines that will be imposed under the Road Traffic Act, 2018. The fines sampled range up to $40,000.

- Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and advice about the management of risks and insurance. For free information or counsel, write to: aegis@flowja.com