House approves stiff new penalties for bad road users

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

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The House of Representatives finally approved the Road Traffic Bill yesterday introducing heavier fines and other penalties for breaching the road code, and giving the police full authority over the use of the country's roads.

Transport Minister Mike Henry, in closing the debate, noted that an original Bill which had been tabled and taken through several stages of development under the previous Government was reviewed and re-tabled by the current Administration after an exhaustive review based on responses from stakeholders and the general public.

He noted that the new Act will allow for effective policing to reduce road fatalities, limit speeding, control loud noises and heavy tinting, as well as the use of cellphones, earphones and other communication devices while driving.

“A great number of the comments we have received will impact the regulations, which are being finalised by the staff of the Chief Parliamentary Council,” he informed the House.

Heavy penalties have been included in the Bill for activities like driving without required motor vehicle insurance coverage ($20,000); driving without a licence or permit ($40,000); driving a motor vehicle without a permit entitling the driver to use the vehicle ($30,000); exceeding speed limits ($6,000 - $15,000); loud noises and failure to wear protective helmet ($5,000); failure to comply with traffic signs ($10,000); and failure to stop a pedestrian crossings ($12,000).

Henry said that the entire House of Representatives had been positive towards the Bill and had rallied around the cause.

He noted that the Act would come up for review within three years of its promulgation, and that it will give the police “full control of the roadway”.

Henry said that most of the 101 amendments inserted prior to the Bill's passage yesterday were not substantial, as they did not propose a shift in the original policy. Instead, they were meant to remove any ambiguity by providing additional information.

Among the major amendments made yesterday were the decision to set up an authority, the Island Traffic Authority (ITA), as the agency responsible for the policy, strategic direction and day-to-day management of the system.

There was a change to Clause 22 of the Bill, which deals with provisions as to the physical fitness of an applicant for permit or driver's licence, and the condition that the licencee be limited to driving a motor vehicle of the particular construction and design approved by the authority.

Clause 34 deals with the authorisation of the authority to suspend or revoke a driver's licence or permit in cases where it is discovered that:

The holder of the permit or driver's licence has been issued with the permit or driver's licence based on false or misleading information provided by the holder;

the holder of the permit or driver's licence has been disqualified from holding or obtaining a permit or driver's licence by an order of the court;

the holder of the driver's licence has been convicted of an offence under the Act, while driving during a period while his driver's licence is suspended;

or the holder of the driver's licence fails to submit the permit or driver's licence to the authority within 21 days after the licence is suspended.

Clause 52 requires the driver or operator of a vehicle to obey all traffic signs which may be lawfully placed, erected or exhibited on or near any road, or so as to be visible from a road.

Clause 99 now requires that demerit points recorded against a driver's licence be expunged after a period of suspension has ended.

The Bill will next go to the Senate.

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