Traffic Bill debate for Senate today

By Balford Henry
Observer senior reporter

Friday, December 07, 2018

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THE Senate is likely to pass the new Road Traffic Act today, ending several years of delay in repealing the existing 80-year-old act which governs usage of Jamaica's roadways.

The Bill, which has been through a number of changes since 2015, was passed by the House of Representatives on November 13, but hit a snag in the Senate on Friday, November 23, when the debate was postponed to allow for consultations and education after route taxi drivers protested against some aspects.

Two major issues which triggered the protests are: (1) owners would be responsible for the payment of outstanding traffic tickets issued by the police, if their drivers refuse to pay; and, (2) an issue of badges which are required by the drivers to operate the service.

Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague told Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine yesterday that he has had a number of meetings with the owners and drivers and is convinced that the issues have resolved, which would pave the way for safe passage through the Senate today.

Auto understands that it has been explained to the owners that they will not be required to pay for the tickets, unless the ticked was acquired through evidence from traffic cameras, which are to be installed at important intersections and the driver refuses to pay the fine. However, the minister admitted that there is no indication when that will come into effect as the cameras have not yet been installed across the island.

On the issue of the badges, the minister confirmed that temporary measures have been approved to allow drivers who have had brushes with the law over the past 10 months to acquire a temporary badge pending determination of their cases. These badges will be effective until March and will cost less than the $3,000 regular price for badges, and can be renewed after expiry at the end of March 2019.

Drivers with minor offences can also obtain a provisional badge which they can use while they to get their criminal record expunged. Badges normally last for two years.

“If any other issue arises, the Transport Authority will be well equipped to deal with that,” the minister said.

Montague also promised that the new regulations, which will include penalties for breaching the new Act will be ready within four months.

The minister said that he has met with representatives of the two main organisations representing disgruntled drivers and had consultations with them on the various issues which they have.

The Bill was initially passed by the House in February will some 130 amendments and the Senate with over 160 amendments, but was withdrawn and brought back with six additional amendments last month, which are the main issues to be debated by the Senate today.

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