Sat | Feb 23, 2019

Time to deal with road hogs

Published:Wednesday | January 3, 2018 | 12:00 AM


A few weeks ago, a letter with a Taiwan postmark addressed to a close relative of mine, who lives overseas, was delivered to my address. Since I know no one in that country, I called the addressee, who asked me to open it to see what it was. This turned out to be a traffic ticket for a traffic offence allegedly committed in Melbourne, Australia, a few weeks previously while driving a rented car. The driver was not aware of the 'offence', which turned out to be driving six kilometres above the designated speed limit and would attract a fine of A$185 with increasing penalty daily for a few days, which would then require him to attend court if not paid. If disputed, a video of the offence was available as proof. The same person was also fined A$250 for not completely fastening his seat belt while being a passenger in a taxi just as the vehicle was moving off.

I have friends who live in Canada, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, England, and other countries who tell me that the authorities in those countries are just as serious. Only in Jamaica can a driver amass scores of traffic tickets without losing a single point or being jailed. We must be jokers. Road hogs in those countries are taken off the road with the possibility of their licence being suspended, withdrawn or other stiff penalties imposed.

The roads by themselves are bad enough but compounded with the taxis, minibuses, motorcycles and private vehicles who intimidate other drivers with their hoggishness and recklessness with no regard for the road code, or the exhibition of simple common sense, it becomes a nightmare. Careful drivers pay the penalty not only with their lives but with unnecessary higher insurance premiums as well.


Police partly at fault


The police think they are doing an excellent job when a group of them sit under a cool tree with a speed gun. This is almost useless because most of the hoggish driving is done on the roads where the police fail to patrol. Where are they when drivers are blocking intersections recklessly, making third lanes, moving out as you are about to pass, overtaking and cutting into other drivers' lanes, driving with open bus doors, riding without helmets, using blinding lights, and pedal cyclists who have no knowledge of the existence of a road code? I wonder how many breathalysers are in working order or being used to test alcohol levels. These must be some of the main reasons for the fatalities and injuries of all sorts that happen on our roads on an annual basis.

The common excuse is to blame the delay in the arrival of the new Road Traffic Act, but no matter how many acts we have, if they are not implemented they are useless. If road hogs know they will get away without penalty they will not change. Most of those with accumulated tickets should be retested before they are allowed to drive again. I have relatives who have many years of safe driving experience in Jamaica, and now living in Canada, must go back to driving school and take the Canadian test before getting a licence.

Finally, I am not sure of the role of the National Road Safety Council. Apart from providing a few safety messages and accident statistics, I don't see them involved in many other aspects of road affairs. Do they insist on the National Works Agency putting in proper signage, lane marking, pedestrian crossings, etc? I have to ask these questions since I am frequently asked myself.

The authorities need to stop playing around if they really want to significantly reduce the carnage on the highways this year, and what better way to start than by dealing firmly with the road hogs?

Trevor Samuels