Critical moves needed to end road carnage - PM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who chairs the National Road Safety Council, last Tuesday made his contribution to the debate on the Road Traffic Act, 2016. (An Act to repeal and replace the Road Traffic Act; to establish the Island Traffic Authority for the regulation and control of traffic on roads; to improve road safety and transport efficiency and reduce the cost of administering road transport; to create new categories of driver's licences; and for connected matters).
Here are edited excerpts from his presentation.
We all agree that the passing of this Road Traffic Act is critical.
Globally, about 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. Between 20 and 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring a disability as a result of their injuries. Road traffic injuries cause considerable economic losses to victims, their families, and to nations as a whole.
As of yesterday, January 23, 2017:
n Twenty persons (17 males and three females) have lost their lives on the nation's roads with the overriding cause of these deaths being reckless use of the roadways.
A further breakdown shows that:
- 10 persons (50%) were pedestrians
- 7 persons (35%) were motorcyclists,
- 2 persons were private motor vehicle drivers,
- and one person was a commercial motor vehicle driver.
While this is less than the 27 road fatalities recorded for the corresponding period in 2016, the trend of approximately one death per day continues.
All Jamaicans must make road safety a priority. We cannot continue to lose our people to fatal crashes, which are largely preventable.
Statistics from the Road Safety Unit within the Ministry of Transport and Mining reveal that the main causes of fatal crashes were:
- excessive speeding,
- drivers failing to keep to the correct side of the roadway (overtaking),
- and, of note, pedestrian error.
It is the responsibility, not only of our road users, but our regulators, road developers, law-enforcement officers and all citizens of this country to ensure that we reverse this worrying trend.
It is important for us to get into our psyche that there are no 'accidents'. Road crashes are largely preventable and we cannot ignore the impact:
- The pain, suffering and, possibly, loss of earnings of persons disabled by injuries.
- The anguish of families, friends and entire communities who are grieving.
- The tireless efforts of health personnel in an already burdened health system.
- The strain on emergency services and even the public to assist in critical moments.
- The loss in productivity that may result in the increased commuting time and/or distance.
... I could continue to highlight the devastating effects, but we are familiar as citizens and have all been impacted in some way.
ROLE OF LEGISLATION
The Government recognises that while we continue to urge persons to practise better road use, improved laws must be in place to deal with persons who put all Jamaicans, but, particularly, our most vulnerable, our senior citizens and our children, at risk. The actions we all take to address road safety must be holistic and it requires all hands on deck.
There must be complete involvement and co-ordination around this initiative.
Legislation must be revised and reviewed in order to ensure that it remains relevant, aligns with international best practices and serves the best interest of our nation.
We are all aware that our existing Road Traffic Act dates back to 1938 and, therefore, its repeal and replacement are long overdue. While we welcome ease of mobility, with the needed improvement to our roads and advances in technology such as smart phones, these developments must not be at the expense of our safety.
The new provisions and modifications to the new Road Traffic Act take us a significant way in ameliorating the critical issues faced by Jamaicans on the road and achieves our objective to align the provisions of our laws with international best practices.
It takes into account:
- traffic management
- the increase in the number of vehicles
- the advancement in vehicle performance,
- changes in technology
- and improvements in the road networks,
- and will improve road safety, aid in crime detection and prevention, and reduce road traffic crashes, injuries and deaths.
CRITICAL FEATURES OF THE NEW ROAD TRAFFIC ACT
A. Section 20, under Part 4 of the Act, establishes new requirements for drivers, making it mandatory to have a licence in possession while operating a vehicle. This will ensure that the police can identify drivers and confirm that they are allowed to operate the vehicles being driven.
B. Section 121 establishes a restriction on hand-held use of electronic communication devices while driving. This is critical to minimising distraction, as we recognise that driving is a complex task requiring intense cognitive participation. International statistical data have shown that drivers using mobile phones are approximately four times more likely to be involved in a crash.
C. The Act significantly updates the drivers' licensing system:
i. Section 23 deals with the grant and duration of learner's permits - The minimum age for a learner's permit is 17 and issuance requires a minimum of six months of driver training.
It will now be a requirement to pass the Road Code Test before a learners permit is issued. The holder of the learner's permit must be accompanied at all times while driving by a person who is the holder of a driver's licence for not less than three years.
D. Section 27 requires newly licensed drivers to be subject to restrictions regarding breath alcohol concentration and speed. The level for this category is now 0.01% while operating a vehicle, and they cannot exceed the limit of 80 km/hour on any road, including the toll roads where the limit is 110 km/hour.
It has been shown that young and novice drivers are subject to an increased risk of road traffic crashes when under the influence of alcohol and/or excessive speed when compared to older and more experienced drivers.
LEGISLATION ESTABLISHES NEW CLASSIFICATIONS OF LICENCES
1. Class A: Motorcycles - There has been a significant increase in the number of motorcyclists on our roads and, therefore, the new legislation now requires that all learner drivers must pass the Road Code Test before receiving a learner's permit. Also a person can now only ride a motorcycle with a learner's permit if he is accompanied by a licensed rider.
2. Class B: Private car and light trucks (not for reward), and vehicles specially modified for persons with a prescribed physical disability.
3. Class C: Commercial and PPV vehicles
The sixth schedule of the Act revises the Demerit Point System, with one of its specific objectives being to ensure reduced speed in school zones and construction work zones.
The points system will be also be rationalised, as will the levels of fines applicable to offences. This will ensure consistency related to similar offences.
Traffic fines and penalties are increased substantially and are now more appropriate given intervening inflation.