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AUTO COMMENT - Ticked off at ticket taxes

Published:Sunday | May 6, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

The progress of the Road Traffic (Temporary Ticket Amnesty) Act 2012 is very welcome. It brings a proposed six-month amnesty on tickets issued before September 20, 2010 that much closer. Under the amnesty, motorists with outstanding tickets will be able to pay up what they owe without legal proceedings being instigated against them.

However, as National Security Minister Peter Bunting has subsequently warned, the consequences upon those who fail to take advantage of the amnesty will be dire.

Under this arrangement, the Government hopes to collect a substantial portion of the $2 billion in outstanding money 'on the road', as is owed by ticketed motorists. I am eager to see what arrangements - if any - will be made for those who owe such substantial amounts of money due to multiple tickets that they cannot come up with all the money before the end of the amnesty.

While this is a planned income-generating activity for the present Government, I have long considered much of traffic policing unofficial taxation, a lot of which does not go into the government's coffers. This is after a series of encounters with the traffic police in the mid to latter part of the last decade, in addition to the numerous tales that I have been told by fellow motorists who have been given the "write or lef'?" ultimatum by a police officer.

For those who are not in the know, when a policeman demands of a motorist "write or lef?" it means should they write up the ticket or will the driver leave some money with them.

Then, more recently, while taking our two children home I was trailed for approximately a mile and a half, mostly uphill, by two policemen in a service vehicle who waited until we were in an area without many houses or people to pull me over. When I went to the vehicle, the policeman in the front passenger seat had his revolver in his lap. The driver did the brief questioning, cut short after he asked where I lived.

So that sort of outright 'taxation' has not stopped, though I would like to think that it has declined (certainly my personal encounters have reduced dramatically). However, there is also the matter of the reasons for which persons are ticketed and, from what I saw on three Traffic Court visits in St Ann's Bay during the last decade, the very limited avenues to successfully challenge the penalties.

My favourite is the ticket for not having the light over the rear licence plate, which has got me twice. In one instance, the policeman went directly to the back of the vehicle and said "dis one too", indicating that they were on the road at 3 a.m. looking specifically for that infraction. Yes, it is an infraction, but two police officers at the side of the road stopping vehicles to look specifically for this seemed like a tremendous waste of time. The fine was reduced to $500 when I went to pay.

Consistent infractions

So while I welcome the amnesty, I remain ticked off at taxes through tickets, especially in a situation where there are consistent infractions which could be dealt with, given the will and redirection of resources. Case in point - the intersection of Molynes Road and Washington Boulevard, heading towards Maverly. If you end up at the head of the line when the light goes red, you have to be very careful when it goes back on green. There is a very strong possibility that a car will sweep past on the left or right - I once had a double, which was scary - and head into the intersection before you do.

An officer is normally on duty there during the morning, I have never seen one posted a bit down the road to nip this very dangerous practice with the appropriate ticket. Yet, two policemen can wait on Hope Road, near Jamaica College, to check the light over the licence plate. Pshaw!

I do hope that when the amnesty comes through, as seems likely to happen, it will be taken advantage of by those who can pay and there will be provision made for those who have piled up so many that they will need a bailout to service their debt.

- auto@gleanerjm.com