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New road laws in three months - Senate passes Road Traffic Act

Published:Saturday | December 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Senator Kamina Johnson Smith.
The Road Traffic Act 2018 will not only make it illegal to drive with a cell phone and other communication devices, but will attract a fine and demerit points for breaches of this provision.

The new road traffic legislation was passed by the Senate yesterday, four years after it was first proposed.

The Road Traffic Act 2018, which will repeal and replace the Road Traffic Act 1938, will now go to Governor General Sir Patrick Allen to be signed into law.

However, Leader of Government Business in the Senate Kamina Johnson Smith has indicated that it will be approximately three months before the legislation takes effect.

Johnson Smith, who is also the minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, said that the Government wants to ensure that the regulations to govern the new legislation are ready by the time it is passed into law.

"The draft regulations are almost complete. The Ministry of Transport and Mining is continuing final consultations," she said during the debate on the bill in the Senate.

Opposition Senator Lambert Brown, while expressing his support for the bill, criticised the Government for asking the Upper House to vote on the newest amendments, which were proposed last month without the regulations.

"Put another way, Mr President, the people on the street would say you asking us to buy puss in a bag," he complained.

Johnson Smith said that the Government will use the time to embark on a public-education campaign "to ensure that everybody understands what is coming; to ensure that the public is made aware of the changes; and to make sure that the operations and systems on the government side are put in place to support the effective implementation of the act".

The new Road Traffic Bill was first proposed in 2014. Among other things, it outlaws the use of hand-held devices by drivers and provides stiffer penalties for speeding, the non-wearing of seat belts, and other traffic offences.

It was passed by both Houses of Parliament earlier this year; however, it was brought back to the Lower House last month when six new amendments were proposed and approved.




Opposition senators expressed support for the proposed legislation but raised concerns about one of the newest amendments, which allows for the use of electronic devices to capture traffic offences and to hold the owner of the vehicle responsible even in cases where it was being driven by someone else.

Brown said that this provision was unfair.

"They are saying to us they can't ketch Quako so them ketch him shut," he said, referring to the popular saying.

But Johnson Smith defended the amendment, arguing that it would help to root out some of the practices that lead to indiscipline and disorder on the roadways.

"Gone are the days of taking a man car and pay him a money at the end of the week and do anything with the car while you have it. Owners, gone are the days of taking a money at the end of the week after giving the car to any and anybody to drive and closing your eyes to the damage your vehicle may be perpetrating," she said.