Traffic Bill drags on

By Balford Henry Observer senior reporter

Friday, July 20, 2018

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IT seems like Parliament has been too busy for the past two months to address the passage of the long-anticipated Road Traffic Act (RTA).

Checks by Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine yesterday showed that while the Senate passed the Bill with 161 amendments on May 11, the House of Representatives has been unable to schedule a closure to the debate, which would require approval of those amendments.

Incidentally, there were 131 amendments to the Bills during its passage through the House of Representatives.

There was no timeline for completion of the process yesterday, as nobody was in a position to say when the House of Representatives will be able to add its completion to the agenda. However, that is now unlikely for the rest of August as Parliament is now on a summer break, which had been delayed by the debate on Bills extending the states of emergency and the zones of special operations (ZOSO).

Last Thursday the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) attempted to put the issue in perspective at its mid-year press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston.

But all the NRSC could add to the discussion was the fact that there is still a need to reconcile the amendments approved by both Houses of Parliament.

However, it says that the Ministry of Transport and Mining is contemplating when various sections could be gazette and implemented in light of the delay.

“Most provisions can be implemented immediately, but some provisions require that regulations be developed, and work on those regulations is well advance,” the NRSC reported.

Work on the Bill dates back some 14 years, but Parliament entered the picture in 2014/15 when a joint select committee (JSC) was appointed to review the provisions.

Among the major changes envisaged for the new act is for the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) to become a statutory body, which will retain part of its income to self-fund and improve its operations.

The ITA will be able to issue demerit points and suspended driver's licences, using its electronic enforcement system, and the Act also provides for the reactivation of the Road Traffic Appeal Tribunal.

In the meantime, the NRSA has reported a fall-off in the number of road traffic deaths over the past five years.

According to the vice chairman of the NRSC, Dr Lucien Jones, road fatalities stood at over 400 people annually in 1993, when the council became active, but the number fell to a low of 260 — a ratio of 9.22 road deaths per 100,000 of the population — by 2012.

“Since then, numbers have moved up to exceed 300. Nevertheless, last year saw much improvement with 321 deaths compared to 379 in 2016. So far this year there have been a total of 180 fatalities recorded, eleven fewer than the 191 fatalities recorded up to this time last year,” Jones said.

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