GOVERNMENT Senator Imani Duncan-Price is pressing for additional powers to be given to the Island Traffic Authority (ITA), to enable it to revoke the licences of drivers who have accumulated "significant" demerit points.
Speaking on the tail end of last Thursday's debate on the Road Traffic (Temporary Ticket Amnesty) Act 2011, Duncan-Price said while she supported the six month initiative, "it is imperative that demerit points for violations above a material threshold be noted in the system such that significant repeat offenders can have their licenses revoked temporarily until they resit the driver's license test and display knowledge of and respect for the Road Code".
The motion, tabled by Duncan-Price in February this year, had called for a re-examination of the driver's licence system in light of what she said was "widespread doubt concerning its integrity". The first-time senator said she made the appeal out of concerns about corruption which allows licences to be issued to persons who have not done a driving test, as well as to persons who are challenged in terms of literacy, and therefore cannot interpret the road code. In addition, she said licences were also being issued to individuals allowing them to drive much heavier types of motor vehicles than the ones they were examined for.
"Whereas there is widespread doubt concerning the integrity of the system by which driver's licences are issued in Jamaica... and whereas that doubt is continually strengthened by the character of the chaotic driving that is witnessed all too often on our roadways, causing untold discomfort, mayhem and death, be it resolved that this Senate call upon the government authorities to conduct a re-examination of the system, in particular the process and qualifications required for an applicant to be successful in obtaining a valid driver's licence," Duncan-Price had proposed then.
During the debate on the motion last Thursday she said "the power to revoke driver licenses in the face of significantly accumulated demerit points can contribute significantly to the overall integrity of the system and the mayhem experienced on the roadways".
She however bemoaned the fact that this power does not lie in the system.
The new Traffic Ticketing System (TTS) developed under the Citizens Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), has been in effect since September 2010. During the first four months 1,970 licenses were identified for suspension. However this faltered following court action which determined that the ITA did not have the powers to suspend licenses for demerit points.
"The current Road Traffic Act amended in 1993 does not (due to an oversight) empower the ITA to do so. Consequently many driver's who have accumulated demerit points and warrant suspension of their license are driving on our roads as the court process is overwhelmed, as we all know," Duncan-Price told the Senate.
The National Road Safety Council (NRSC) has indicated that many fatal crashes involve Public Passenger Vehicles (PPV) and commercial driver's license holders who have a significant number of demerit points.
Thursday, Duncan-Price said since the draft Road Traffic Bill is far advanced and will take up to a year to be passed and enacted, the amendment should be done to the Act to enable the ITA "to fully operate as a licensing authority by allowing them to assume administrative responsibility for the suspension of the license of drivers who accumulate demerit points to levels which warrant suspension under the Traffic Ticket System". The National Road Safety Council (NRSC) has made a similar call in time past.
Debate on the motion was suspended for it to be referred to a committee of Parliament for further debate.