Manchester cabbies call for revision of RTA, leniency
A build-up of demerit points on their driver’s licences and an accumulation of unpaid tickets were among reasons some 90 taxi operators in northeastern Manchester withdrew their services on Monday in protest of some regulations under the Road Traffic Act (RTA).
The operators, who ply the route from Christiana, Manchester, to Albert Town, Trelawny, and southwestern St Ann, claimed they are being targeted by cops since the new law took effect on February 1, making it difficult for them to earn a living.
“I got three tickets on the first day of the act. My wife just simply call me and tell me to remember [to pick up] some goods and by the time I look, a police just walk across the road, block the car, and give me three ticket,” said taxi operator Kevin Johnson.
He claims the tickets, which added approximately eight penalty points on his licence, were cause for concern.
“What if you get three tickets in Christiana, one in Wait-A-Bit and two in Albert Town? In the space of couple days, you will not have a licence,” he reasoned. “What’s going to happen to the car you take out on loan and the kids you have going to school, rent, Internet, light bill? This is our livelihood, so what is going to happen to us if we lose our licence?”
According to a report from the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport, a driver risks having their licence suspended for six months if they accumulate between 10 and 13 penalty points and suspension for up to two years for 20 or more penalty points.
The taxi operators said they were not protesting against the laws implemented for the betterment of the country, but were instead pleading for leniency and for issues to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
“Things like the cellphone [use while driving] is definitely a problem, but where discretion can be made, it should be made. These laws are too harsh on us. You have officers who give you six ticket one time, and if it is that I am going to lose my licence on the same day, I want to know what is going to happen to taxi operators,” one complained.
With the possibility of drivers being fined $2,000 for not having each passenger wearing a seatbelt, taxi operator Shevon Level is calling for a revision of this requirement, considering the dynamics of transportation.
“I drive a seven-seater. The back has two seatbelts, the middle has two and the front passenger [seat] has one. That is five passengers from Christiana to Albert Town. I work for someone and that can’t pay boss or pay me,” he told The Gleaner.
Ethnie Miller-Simpson, a business owner in the area who was in support of the protest, called for consultation to be had between lawmakers and those the legislation impacts.
“It cannot be that we are running a country the way we are doing it and not talking to the people. When the things were [being] implemented, nobody sat down and gave the information ahead of the implementation. It isn’t that Jamaicans are stupid. We are not dealing with Jamaican people with dignity and this kind of behaviour is unacceptable and unreasonable,” said Miller-Simpson.
The peaceful protest, which began about 8 a.m., left a number of students, among other travellers, stranded.
The drivers said the protest could continue in the coming days if their concerns go unheeded.