Bad bikers - Traffic cops desperate for legislation to further clamp down on motorcyclists
With motorcyclists accounting for approximately 30 per cent of the persons killed on the nation's roads last year, the police are expecting that the long overdue revised Road Traffic Act will make it harder for persons to own and operate the vehicles.
"All that a man needs to do to drive a motorbike is to go to the tax office, apply for and take out a provisional driver's licence, and the current Road Traffic Act allows him legally to drive the motorcycle with just that.
"It is only illegal if he carries a pillion," noted Senior Superintendent Calvin Allen, head of the Police Traffic Division last week.
"The new Road Traffic Act that we are looking forward to will cause individuals to go through the similar processes as if he was applying for a regular driver's licence. It won't be like now, where the provisional licence will be sufficient for him," added Allen.
Ninety-five motorcyclists were killed in traffic accidents last year, and Allen believes that it is mostly because of inexperience and unruliness on the part of many riders.
"A lot of the collisions that we have had with motorcyclists, a lot of them (operators) are non-riders. They get some easy money, and so they just go and buy a motorcycle and they are off.
"The whole aspect of understanding the psychology of driving and interacting with traffic on the road is something that you have to learn," said Allen.
He noted that the police seized 688 motorcycles last year, with the majority not being registered.
According to Allen, the police are looking forward to the new legislation "like crazy", even though the document, which Transport Minister Mike Henry said would have been ready by the end of last year, seems slow in coming.
"Right now, we're completing the dotting of the I's and crossing of the T's. It contains minor things that we have to adjust, but I can confirm, from the ministry's point of view, that we will be ready by the end of the year," promised Henry last November.
Among the features to be introduced under the new Road Traffic Act are restrictions on the use of hand-held devices while driving and a requirement for drivers to have their licence in their possession every time they operate a motor vehicle.
Last year, 320 persons lost their lives on Jamaica's roads. This was 59 fewer than 379 road fatalities recorded in 2016.
After the motorcyclists, pedestrians were the group with the most fatalities last year, 85, while 35 private motor vehicle operators were killed in collisions.
"If we can cut pedestrian and motorcycle fatalities in half then we would be on our way to realise certain other objectives that we have," said Allen.
He noted that 52 fatal collisions were caused by pedestrians who misused the roads, while 71 were caused by motor car drivers who failed to keep to the left.