Road Traffic Act likely passed today

Observer senior reporter

Friday, April 27, 2018

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The long-awaited Road Traffic Act (RTA) takes another step to implementation today when the Senate meets to debate the Bill. This should be the final step for the Bill which is to repeal and replace the existing 1938 Act.

It was passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, February 6. But, despite several assurances from the former Transport Minister Mike Henry that it would have been in place by early 2018, the Senate debate slowed the progress and caused it to drag on.

The Bill — which was passed with 131 amendments — established new offences, as well as provide increased penalties for road traffic breaches. It also included features such as a restriction on handheld devices and a requirement for drivers to have their licence always in their possession while operating a vehicle.

Offences with heavy fines 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 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).

Henry hailed the support of the measures from both sides of the House of Representatives when he closed the debate in February, noting that it is intended to reduce injuries and loss of life on the nation's roads. The Government will be hoping for a similar level of cooperation in the Senate to ensure that it is passed today.

Henry had insisted that with the new Act in place, the authorities would 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,” he said then.

Dr Morais Guy, who supported former Transport, Works and Housing Minister Dr Omar Davies in the progress of the legislation up to 2016, and Mikael Phillips, who became the Opposition's spokesman on transport in 2016, have given the measures their full support.

However, it is noticeable that since 2017, the Opposition in the Senate has not shown full support for some of the measures agreed to by the Opposition in the House of Representatives, and it is not a foregone conclusion that the debate will end today.

It is interesting that with Henry's transfer to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in the recent Cabinet reshuffle, the portfolio now falls under former National Security Minister Robert Montague, who was instrumental in the offering of two traffic ticket amnesties to disobedient drivers in 2016.

The Bill currently proposes that acceptable alcohol levels should not exceed 0.02 per cent for regular drivers; that 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 is to be provided by the minister of health.

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.

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

It will replace the Road Traffic Act of 1938, sections of which have become outdated due to technological developments in motor vehicles and road designs.

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