Tue | Jul 14, 2020

Motorists unfazed by 10,000 traffic tickets per week - Road safety experts, police hope new law, better collaboration will help reduce offences

Published:Tuesday | May 21, 2019 | 12:00 AMCarlene Davis/Gleaner Writer

Police and road-safety experts are hoping that the new Road Traffic Act will drive fear into deviant motorists, whipping them into line by making traffic tickets a greater deterrent to dangerous driving practices.

With the police issuing more than 10,000 tickets per week across the island – 205,000 since the start of the year – head of the police’s Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch, Assistant Commissioner of Police Calvin Allen, said motorists are not afraid of racking up tickets.

“For a small country like this, we have prosecuted over 200,000 breaches in the first four months and one week of 2019, but the whole aspect of consequences, say, a man amasses 50 tickets, for example, but he is still able to go and buy bread like you and I, to renew his licence, to renew his vehicle documents, to travel. There’s no consequence as it relates to the behaviour,” Allen said at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum last week.

He pointed to other countries where there are stricter policies and wide-ranging penalties for ignoring a traffic ticket.

“We know that in other jurisdictions, such as our friends in the US, if you have one outstanding ticket and you have not honoured it, all the other negatives start to impact you. It is not so yet [in Jamaica]. We are hoping to reach there with the new Road Traffic Act,” he said.

National Road Safety Council (NRSC) Executive Director Paula Fletcher also lamented that motorists seem to take pleasure in amassing traffic tickets.

“The police issue a lot of tickets, but people are collecting them like stamps. So the deterrent that a ticket should be, where you get a ticket and you have to pay it, persons will actually take the ticket and put it in the glove compartment,” said Fletcher.

Efficient traffic ticket management

She said that in order to change the culture, there needs to be a more efficient traffic ticket management system with all the relevant agencies working more closely together.

“From it’s issued to the payment to adjudication in court, all those platforms have to be tied together. So what you would find happening is if you don’t pay your ticket, then its assumed that you would want to come to court to defend your position, and you don’t come, then the system should issue a warrant. Now there have been times when people have been issued a warrant and their ticket has been paid,” said Fletcher.

NRSC Vice-chairman Dr Lucien Jones said the organisation has asked the prime minister, its chairman, to direct the minister of national security to rationalise the system.

“The two issues with the tracking system are, one, the verification process – by which you verify that people have paid for their ticket is a number one problem, and that’s being worked on as we speak – and secondly, the judges, having being convinced to signed the warrants, the warrants have to be executed. That’s a major problem because the police are stretched in terms of crime ... . At the end of the day, unless you find an individual and he or she is either brought to court or is placed in jail, then nobody is going to get excited about the traffic ticketing system, so what we are working on now is the verification and also the execution of the warrants,” said Jones.

In his recent Sectoral Debate presentation, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang said that come next month, there will be greater collaboration among the four state agencies in the ticketing process.