Gov't anxious to pass new road traffic bill
WITH THE carnage on the nation's roadways spilling over into 2016, Dr Morais Guy, minister without portfolio in the transport ministry, is pushing lawmakers in the Upper House to swiftly pass the new road traffic bill that provides tougher sanctions for several categories of road users.
Guy revealed yesterday that he has already met with Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding to indicate that "we need to have this bill move through the Senate as quickly as possible".
Guy emphasised: "I want to see the bill passed and assented so that we can start to impose some of these measures that the bill speak to."
The proposed amendments to the Road Traffic Act were first tabled in the House of Representatives in April 2014, before being sent to a joint select committee one month later. The bill was passed in the Lower House 17 months later in November last year, and sent to the Senate two days later.
CHANGE COMING FOR MOTORCYCLISTS
One of the main changes in the legislation, which has been embraced by the police, is that rather than simply obtaining a learner's permit, persons seeking to drive a motorcycle will now have to go through the same process as those applying for a driver's licence.
The National Road Safety Council (NRSC) revealed yesterday that 11 persons, including eight motorcyclists and an eight-year-old girl, have died in motor-vehicle crashes seven days into the new year.
According to the NRSC, this represents a 120 per cent spike when compared with the five road deaths recorded for the first seven days of 2015. A total of 378 persons, including 111 motorcyclists, died on the nation's roadways last year, the highest single-year figure recorded in the last decade.
"This has been a very horrific start to the year as far as road safety is concerned. This is nothing short of a disaster, especially when you consider that last year we had a record 378 people dying [on the roadways]," NRSC Vice-chairman Dr Lucien Jones lamented.
As a result, Jones revealed that the NRSC has arranged a high-level meeting for next week with all stakeholder groups, including government ministers whose portfolios touch on road safety, to discuss measures to help stem the carnage.
"It's an urgent meeting, and whatever we decide will have a level of urgency attached to it. This cannot continue," he insisted.
Guy acknowledged that the bill is not a panacea for the mayhem on the roadways, noting that it will take "quite a bit of policing and enforcement" by the Island Traffic Authority and the police to ensure that the new provisions have the desired effect.