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Review of traffic bill on Tuesday

By Balford Henry Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 05, 2014    

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A joint select committee (JSC) of Parliament which has been assigned the review of the draft Road Traffic Bill will start meeting at Gordon House on Tuesday morning at 10.

The meeting is expected to deal mainly with preliminary matters such as looking at the submissions from the public, and deciding what institutions or individuals to call to the hearings.

Submissions were invited from members of the public up to August 29.

The committee, which chaired by Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr Omar Davies, will be assessing the submissions and see whether changes are necessary and make a report to the House of Representatives, which will be debated and voted on.

The bill will eventually replace the existing Road Traffic Act, by drastically changing the way all stakeholders -- including pedestrians, drivers, peddlars, passengers and persons who the roads to promote events.

Persons applying for a learner's licence will face more stringent requirements to acquire a driver's licence, including a road code test and will not be able to use the licence late nights or on major highways like Highway 2000.

Heavy fines for disobeying the provisions of the new Act have been a major concern for motorists. For example driving without a learner's permit or driver's licence could lead to 14 demerit points and fines of up to $40,000, or one month's imprisonment.

For reckless and careless driving causing death, a $250,000 fine is proposed. Exceeding the speeding limit is proposed at $20,000, and motorists who race on the nations' roads, will attract a fine of $100,000.

The new provisions invest enormous powers in both the minister and the country's primary traffic agency, the Island Traffic Authority (ITA), over the use of the roads, including traffic, rehabilitation, vending, public demonstrations and the use of the sidewalks and available signage space.

The old Act is being modernised and updated primarily by making the ITA the licensing authority, and delegate its functions to include; broadening the role of the Road Traffic Appeal Tribunal; providing for the reclassification of all forms of vehicles; introducing new classes of driver's licences and attaching conditions to the granting of these licences; and the transportation of dangerous and hazardous substances.

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr Morais Guy, admits that the ITA has often been characterised as being corrupt, and that there are accounts of negative experiences in conducting business at the examination depots. But, he insists that it is in the midst of a major transformation and modernisation process.

Apart from Dr Davies and Dr Guy, the JSC includes Government members - Fitz Jackson, Richard Parchment, Denise Daley, Andre Hylton, Sandrea Falconer, Imani Duncan, Sophia Frazer-Binns and Navel Clarke; and Opposition members- Derrick Smith, Dr. Horace Chang, Delroy Chuck, Kavan gayle and Kamina Johnson Smith.

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