Don't Be Intimidated!

Former top cop offers advice to Gov't on Road Traffic Act

By Brian Bonitto
Associate Editor — Auto &
Entertainment
bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, November 30, 2018

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RADCLIFFE Lewis, the tough-talking former Senior Superintendent of Police in charge of the Traffic Division, says the Government should not be intimidated by recent protests against the new Road Traffic Act.

“It's a country's responsibility to protect its citizens, especially from road hogs. I'm in total support of the new Road Traffic Act. In fact, it should be stricter, and include a specific section for taxi drivers, mini-bus operators and 'robots' (illegal taxi operators). The Act will serve as a deterrent to those who harbour intentions of breaking the law,” he told the Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine.

Last week, taxi operators islandwide withdrew their services and blocked certain public thoroughfares requesting that the Government revise several aspects of the new Road Traffic Act, which seeks to replace the original 1938 Act.

It was reported that in some instances, operators prevented commuters from accessing other modes of transportation, and issued threats to other operators who refused to participate in the protests.

The Government has since delayed the Bill's senate debate in order to embark on a public education campaign and consultations with members of the sector.

Lewis, currently the franchise and security manager at the Jamaica Urban Transit Company, said the proposed Act could be a “life saver”.

“Look at what is happening on our roads! It's a state of anarchy! And desperate times need desperate measures. Everybody has the right to peaceful demonstrations, but blocking the roads and intimidating other road users is unacceptable. The demonstrations show there are several lawbreakers among them ,” he said. “Once you don't commit an offence, you don't pay a fine. But you see, many of them totally disregard the Road Traffic Act... They drive on the right side of the road and overtake carelessly, endangering law-abiding citizens. So the left side is for law-abiding citizens, while the right is for them.”

The security manager pointed to proposed amendments to another Commonwealth country's Highway and Traffic Act.

“Governments all over the world are putting in measures for decent driving on their roads. In Canada, come January 1, having a cellphone and making a call or texting while driving attracts a fine of Cdn$1,000 and a three-day suspension of your licence for a first offence; Cdn$2,000 and seven-day suspension for a second offence; Cdn$3,000 and 30-day suspension of your licence for a third offence; above fourth offence is a federal crime,” he said.

He says a major flaw with our system is that the relevant agencies — Transport Authority (TA), Tax Office, the police, Island Traffic Authority (ITA), and the courts — are not working in unison.

“They should be all on one database. A delinquent motorist, taxi driver or bus operator who has outstanding tickets should pop up on the police's, Transport Authority's and Island Traffic Authority's radar. I suspect they're still not talking,” he said.

Lewis served in the Jamaica Constabulary Force for 40 years. With his no-nonsense, hands-on approach, he assisted in reducing the island's roadway deaths to 256 in 2012. This was the first time since 1999 that fewer than 300 people had died in crashes.

As of yesterday, the road fatalities stood at 333.

In 2010, Lewis embarked on a campaign to remove windscreen wiper men (squeegee men) from several of the Corporate Area intersections, as they hindered the flow of traffic. The move was hailed in some quarters, especially female drivers who said they were oftentimes intimidated and abused by these men.

A similar strategy was employed by New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who served from 1991 to 2001, as part of his quality-of-life campaign. The New York City mayor said the presence of squeegee men on the streets created an environment of disorder that encouraged more serious crime to flourish. They are yet to return to New York City in significant numbers.

Lewis retired from the Jamaica Constabulary Force in October 2013.

He lauded his former colleagues for their hard work. He also used the opportunity to share a word of advice.

“Don't wait on the new Bill; work with what you have until you get what you want,” he said.

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