Laws of Eve | Common road hazards this season
When we complain about the hazards of driving on Jamaican roads, reference is usually made to taxi and Coaster bus drivers. They seem to defy all predictable and accepted driving behaviour, and force law-abiding motorists and pedestrians to expect the unexpected and proceed with extreme caution.
We have been promised a new Road Traffic Act ('the act') after the ticket amnesty expires in January 2018. For now, it is the 1938 act that applies. With reference to that, I listed a few of the most common unruly driving behaviours I have observed on the roads, indicate the sections of the Road Traffic Act that they violate, and the relevant penalties for breaching them.
Failing to obey stop sign or traffic light
Have you ever driven to a four-way intersection, such as Liguanea Avenue and Paddington Terrace in St Andrew, only to see someone drive through the intersection without stopping, or watch as the car that was third in line to stop trailed the first car through the intersection to get ahead?
At intersections, such as Ardenne Road and Old Hope Road, pausing to ensure that the way is clear before entering Hope Road in obedience of the green light is essential, since motorists travelling along Hope Road routinely try to beat the red light. Failing to obey a stop sign or a traffic light contravenes Section 97 of the act, and attracts a maximum fine of $5,000 at court and six demerit points.
When travelling along a dual carriage way that has a filter lane at traffic lights, such as the intersection of East Kings House, Hope and Lady Musgrave roads, motorists routinely enter the filter lane on Hope Road with no intention of turning on to East Kings House or Lady Musgrave Road. Instead, they veer left into the path of vehicles waiting to get the ball green light to continue straight along Hope Road.
Crossing so as to obstruct traffic contravenes Section 51 (1) (d) of the act, attracts a maximum penalty of $5,000 and three demerit points.
Proper overtaking requires a motorist to pass other cars when the way is clear and there is space ahead to the entire flow of traffic on the left side of the road. At least, that is what I thought! Regrettably, overtaking at peak hour means that motorists who do not wish to wait in line to get to a traffic light to turn from a two-lane road, such as Holborn Road, simply overtake all the cars ahead of them for distances in excess of 100 metres most times to race to the traffic light, with no space to return to the left lane.
Overtaking in a manner to cause obstruction to oncoming traffic, or without having a clear and unobstructed view of the road ahead, contravenes Section 51 (1) (c) or (9) of the act, attracts a maximum penalty at court of $4,000 and six demerit points.
Improper use of horns
It no longer seems important to recognise that the roadways in the vicinity of hospitals and courts are silent zones. Have you ever been inside the Supreme Court and heard the persistent horn blowing on King Street?
Sounding a horn to make an unreasonable noise or failing to observe silence zones contravenes Section 43 (2) or 44 of the act and attracts a maximum fine of $4,000 and two demerit points.
I hardly think that a new act will correct these problems, only stricter enforcement will.