'New Act to save health sector millions'

BY BALFORD HENRY
Observer senior reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 09, 2018

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MINISTER of Transport and Mining Mike Henry says the new Road Traffic Act, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, will save the health sector millions of dollars.

“We will be able to reduce the injuries or, better yet, eliminate them. We would save the health sector millions of dollars, and make greater contributions to economic growth and development with less grief on the road,” Henry told the House before it passed the long-delayed Bill with support on both sides of the aisle.

Henry said that the Bill proposes that acceptable alcohol levels shall not exceed 0.02 per cent for regular drivers. Drugs, other than alcohol, which are now not included, are intended to be provided for with the appropriate test and thresholds established in the regulations.

“The maximum quantities of alcohol and other drugs that are to be included in the regulations will be provided by the Minister of Health,” he said.

The minister piloted the legislation through the House, where it was passed with 131 amendments, after several drafts, including one which was also piloted through the House in 2015 by his predecessor, Dr Omar Davies.

The new Act will repeal the 1938 Act and will establish new offences, as well as provide increased penalties for breaches.

Offences under the Bill include:

• Driving without required motor vehicle insurance coverage ($20,000);

• Driving a motor vehicle without being the holder of a permit or driver's licence ($40,000);

• Failure of driver to obey traffic light ($24,000);

• Loud noises within silence zones and failure to wear a protective helmet ($5,000);

• Failure to comply with traffic signs ($10,000); and,

• Failure to stop at pedestrian crossings ($12,000).

Minister Henry hailed the support from both sides of the Lower House for the legislation, which, he pointed out, is intended to reduce injuries and loss of life on the nation's roads.

Among the major amendments made were the decision to set up an authority, the Island Traffic Authority (ITA), as the agency responsible for the policy, strategic direction and day-to-day management of the system.

Clause 34 authorises the authority to suspend or revoke a driver's licence or permit in cases in which it is discovered that holder of the permit or driver's licence has been issued with the permit or driver's licence based on false or misleading information provided by the holder; the holder of the permit or driver's licence has been disqualified from holding or obtaining a permit or driver's licence by an order of the court; the holder of the driver's licence has been convicted of an offence under the Act, while driving during a period while his driver's licence is suspended; or the holder of the driver's licence fails to submit the permit or driver's licence to the authority within 21 days after the licence is suspended.

Clause 52 requires the driver or operator of a vehicle to obey all traffic signs which may be lawfully placed, erected or exhibited on or near any road, or so as to be visible from a road.

Clause 99 now requires that demerit points recorded against a driver's licence be expunged after a period of suspension has ended.

Following its passage in the Senate, it will then be sent to the governor general for assent, after which it will be gazetted and passed into law.

The transport ministry is now putting the final touches to an islandwide public education campaign that will accompany the new Road Traffic Act.

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