Thu | Aug 17, 2017

My dash cam

Published:Monday | June 29, 2015 | 6:00 AM

I was happy and hopeful to see the headline in The Gleaner of Friday June 26, 2016 which read, 'Invest in cameras to expose traffic offenders - Chuck'. In the piece, Opposition Member of Parliament Delroy Chuck, called for, "Changes to the Evidence Act to allow civilians to capture traffic offences".

I hope that someone will heed Chuck's suggestion, because I have been agitating in vain for the legislation to be amended so that appropriately empowered and trained citizens can be used to observe and/or record and submit evidence of traffic violations that might warrant intervention/warning/prosecution.

I also feel that the new traffic fines announced should have been increased far more gradually, methodically, periodically and not in what appears to be a desperate and hurried attempt at extracting tax revenue and, to some extent, to reduce traffic crashes in an ad hoc fashion.

When revenue appears to be the main reason for the increase in fines, it becomes a cat-and-mouse game between the police and drivers. Headlights are going to flash like 'peeny-wally' to warn oncoming motorists more fervently than ever. Cellular phone calls and messaging apps are going to be used to warn family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues of police gathered anywhere. Therefore, dangerous criminals will be forewarned and be able to elude the police. And, sad to say, the rogue cops operating out there will seize the opportunity to extort motorists even more.

 

an asset for any motorist

 

The traffic police cannot be everywhere and, obviously, the most serious and egregious infractions occur outside of their view. Having lost my repeated quests for the authorities to 'deputise' willing citizens as traffic observers, I decided to purchase a dash cam for my personal use. A dash cam is an asset for any motorist because it can provide accurate and invaluable information in case (God forbid) there is a crash or a dispute over culpability. The one currently rated as among the best costs under US$17 and ships free to most places in the United States and they ship, at a small cost, directly to Jamaica.

I sent mine to a friend who was coming here for a visit. When I received it, I installed a pretty decent memory card and mounted the device on the front windshield. It does not obscure the vision. It plugs into the power outlet and turns itself on and off when the vehicle is turned on and off. The captured video images can be viewed and downloaded to any computer just by plugging it in with the small connecting cable provided.

Since no one in authority cares to take notice of what the police cannot and do not see, I repeatedly play back the antics that I record just to remind myself of how unsafe our roads are.

 

dangerous drivers

 

I've noticed that drivers have gone from bad to outrageously dangerous. I assure my patients that they are immensely safer undergoing major surgery anywhere in Jamaica than they are driving on our roads. There is a growing trend of motorists turning left on the red (where there is no filter green light or slip roadway). This is most pronounced at intersections like White River in Ocho Rios, Ruthven Road/Half-Way Tree Road and Waterloo Road/South Avenue. Most motorists turn as if they have the right of way. Those who obey the red light must endure enraged drivers behind them blowing their horns and/or emitting sky-darkening expletives to register their disgust.

My dash cam has witnessed idiots turning on to minor roads from the wrong lanes, failing to signal, drifting or zigzagging across lanes, cruising through red lights and stop signs, overtaking dangerously around corners and even directly into oncoming traffic and myriad other life-threatening traffic violations that beg for prosecution. It is truly miraculous that more of us don't get slaughtered on the roads.

We need to think outside the box when it comes to road safety. We need regular-looking cars recording serious violations and submitting them to the authorities. Excessive fines and unsustainable campaigns of increased police presence alone cannot combat the ensconced culture of indiscipline and dangerous use of our roads.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com