Strong action needed to curb reckless driving
The revelation by the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) last week that $682 million in traffic fines was collected in the last 18 months is, at the same time, depressing and encouraging.
Depressing because, as we reported on Saturday, the number suggests that Jamaican drivers still have little regard for road safety; but encouraging for the fact that motorists who try to evade paying fines are being caught, due to a new mobile technology being used by the police.
Dr Lucien Jones, the vice-chairman of the NRSC, tells us that the new system allows the police to use a hand-held device to track motorists who have outstanding tickets.
That system, we hold, could not have come sooner, because we have seen too often motorists who have been ticketed for their reckless use of the road ignoring the sanction and remaining on the streets, continuing to pose a danger to other people.
Just two months ago we reported the case of a Montego Bay taxi driver who, over a 22-month period, racked up 54 traffic tickets.
Among the breaches for which he was cited were obstructing traffic, operating a motor vehicle contrary to its road licence, not wearing a seat belt, disobeying a traffic light, disobeying a no-stopping sign, failure to use the transport centre, disobeying a no-parking sign, double parking, operating a vehicle without proper fitness, excess passengers - having 10 persons in his car at one time - improper parking, and disobeying a No U-turn sign.
He was fined a total of $86,000 and, thankfully, his driver's licence was disqualified for a year after being docked 42 penalty points by Resident Magistrate Winsome Henry.
RM Henry quite correctly labelled him a disgrace and a nuisance on the road who had scant regard for the law.
The sad reality, though, is that the country has other such reckless motorists on our streets, many of whom are still avoiding prosecution and who, unfortunately, make a living from providing public transportation.
The police and the road traffic authorities should not resile from their drive to prosecute those who would disregard the rules of the road and endanger people's lives. They should also ignore the complaints and accusations about depriving people of a livelihood, for that argument is the refuge of the lawless.
The mindless behaviour being exhibited on our roads daily can only be curbed by strong, effective policing and prosecution that will hit the rabble hard in their pockets, deprive them of their licences and, in the cases that warrant it, send them to prison.
As Dr Jones correctly said last week: "All of us have to use the road and all of us have been touched by relatives and friends who have died. This does not have to happen."
Against that background, we support the NRSC's plan to intensify its public education campaign which, we hope, will achieve its desired goal of reducing road fatalities.
We are also anxious for the introduction of the electronic surveillance system of which Dr Jones spoke, as that would improve monitoring of our roads while freeing up police manpower to concentrate on tackling more serious crimes.
We wish for all those who venture out on our roads today a safe journey.