Arrest speed demons - Road safety official proposes drastic measures to curb high rate of accidents, deaths on nation's roads
Strong actions, including the detention of persons who regularly flout speed limits, are being proposed as a means of reducing the number of motor vehicle accidents and fatalities seen annually across the nation.
The proposals come after 382 persons were killed on the nation's roadways in 2015, the highest single-year total recorded over the past decade.
The first three months of 2016 have seen 108 fatalities in 91 days.
"We are deeply concerned about the number of persons that are dying on our roads. We are deeply concerned about the fact that people are speeding, and speeding way above the speed limits. Persons are driving 30, 40, 50, 60 miles per hour above the speed limits," said Dr Lucien Jones, chairman of the National Road Safety Council, as he addressed a Gleaner Editors' Forum examining the carnage on the nation's roads.
"What is happening is they are being issued a ticket, and in many instances people are not paying the tickets any attention whatsoever. So the question is, how you can deal with folks like this who persistently exceed the speed limit and become a danger to themselves and to the rest of road users?"
According to Jones, one possible deterrent that the council is interested in having dialogue on is the detention of persons who repeatedly disregard the road track regulations, especially as it relates to speeding.
"The question was raised whether or not it would make more sense to disrupt their lives by using the law to arrest them for a day, take them to the police stations, bring them before the courts to let them understand that it is not just a matter of getting a ticket; it is a matter of your life being disrupted for at least a day. So you learn a lesson and you don't do it again," Jones said.
While acknowledging that arresting persons where it is possible to give them a ticket might neither find favour with the masses nor, therefore, political representatives, Jones said he believed it was an avenue worth exploring further.
"We are interested in having that conversation in Jamaica about this issue. I think if the country were to buy into it, because of the safety reasons and the urgent situation, then the politicians would follow suit."
Joan Wynter, acting director of policy at the Ministry of Transport, is hesitant to go down that road with Jones as, while sharing his concern regarding the number of road fatalities, she said she felt that detaining persons for speeding would be unconstitutional.
"I understand Dr Jones' desire to have something like that, but whenever we take actions against persons we have to think about their constitutional rights," Wynter said.
"We have to look at, 'are we unlawfully detaining persons?', because you cannot detain somebody simply because they speed."
Wynter further highlighted that person's behaviour cannot be regulated, so efforts have to instead be made to persuade them.
To do this, she suggested the continued use of public-awareness campaigns.
Attorney-at-law Bert Samuels also opposed consideration being given to the police detaining persons for speeding, arguing that to take a "person's liberty is the purview of a judge".
Of the 382 persons who died as a result of motor vehicle accidents in Jamaica last year, 111 were motorcyclists, prompting Senior Superintendent of Police Calvin Allen, head of the Traffic Division, to propose to the Ministry of Transport a 'no helmet, no ride' policy.
"By this, I mean if you are seen driving a motorcycle on the road without a helmet it becomes a seizable offence," Allen explained.
It is a proposal that has received the full support of the Road Safety Council, but Wynter pointed out that there is currently no provision in the law to make the wearing of a helmet mandatory.
"However, we are looking at including it in the current legislation going forward as part of the regulation for safety to ensure that they wear the helmet, and if they have pillion riders they also have one for them to wear," Wynter said.
Samuels said he was not opposed to such a move, once it is written into the Road Traffic Act and the police seize the motorcycles under the powers of the law.
He, however, warned that permanent seizure would "infringe on the person's right to property under the Constitution".
He, therefore, thinks persons should be given the opportunity to go and acquire a helmet and repossess their motorcycles, having done so if no other law has been broken.