Mon | Sep 27, 2021

Letter of the Day | Better laws needed to police motorcyclists

Published:Thursday | February 28, 2019 | 12:00 AM


With the relatively cheap Chinese imports, motorcycles have become prevalent as a common mode of transportation in the western part of the island and also have fulfilled a significant role as taxis for those living in remote off-route locations. But this phenomenon has sowed the seeds of abuse, danger, and crime, with serious consequences. Many of the bikes are not licensed, have stolen or old tags, and are not insured. Many drivers have never taken a motorbike road test and rely on expired learner permits to get them through police spot checks. In effect, these bike riders are dangerous to themselves, to those who hire them, and to the general public.

Westmoreland and Hanover have overtaken St James by having the highest murder rate on the island. A significant number of those murders take place by men on motorbikes, with the shooter as pillion. A few weeks ago, a brazen youth and his companion drove right into the middle of Negril Square and murdered a money changer in broad daylight. They looked around, pumping bullets into the man, then sped away. And sticking up tourists at gunpoint on dark roads has become a regular occurrence!

Zig-zagging through traffic

Another common practice is to zigzag through traffic on single-lane roads and to startle drivers in each direction. Many times, it results in accidents, sometimes after the bike has passed. Sometimes they hit the cars or vice versa. And then there are the fellows who like to show off their prowess on busy thoroughfares by doing wheelies up and down the road. Few wear helmets.

I believe that there should be more rigorous enforcement of the motorcycle laws, and as a requirement of gaining a licence, drivers should be required to go to hospital wards to see what happens to those that survive motorcycle accidents. Making that trip mandatory would imprint in the minds of young operators the risks that they take by being reckless because while the young think they are invincible, do they really want to be in wheelchairs, on crutches, or be disfigured for the rest of their lives?

Finally, the police should set up special motorcycle inspection units in the most densely populated motorbike areas. Their sole purpose would be to inspect for proper licensing of the drivers and bikes, with mandatory confiscation of the bike until all documents are in order. This should be done even if the driver doesn’t wear a helmet.

So the question of whether motorcycles kill is not much different from the question of whether guns kill. It’s people on motorcycles that kill, and it is in the public interest that our authorities focus on this terrible menace to life and limb.

Avery Johnson