Motorcycle regulations proposed to reduce road fatalities

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

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New regulations could be imminent for the sale and use of motorcycles across the island, as the Government seeks to stem the high number of fatalities among motorcyclists which is now at 69, according to the latest statistics from the Road Safety Unit.

Proposed measures include a tax on the importation of motorcycles in order to decrease the number of motorcycles on the nation's roads, and mandating that motorcycles cannot be sold without safety devices such as helmets.

The National Road Safety Council (NRSC) says other measures that were discussed at a recent meeting with the council's chairman, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, included a reduction or removal of the import tax on helmets in order to encourage its use. The importation tax on motorcycles would accrue to the National Health Fund to go towards its health and wellness projects.

Additionally, the regulations would force motorcyclists to have licence plates prominently displayed on their units, and it is also being proposed that the Bureau of Standards Jamaica conducts a regulatory impact assessment for the development of mandatory standards and technical regulations.

The NRSC pointed out that in 2016 there were 96 motorcycle deaths, representing a 14 per cent decrease over 2015 when 111 motorcyclists perished — a record high which surpassed pedestrian deaths that year.

The council noted that most of these motorcycle drivers are from western Jamaica, where motorcycles are increasingly being used as a preferred form of transportation and motorcycle taxis dominate as a sought after form of transportation in communities.

“It is believed that this unprecedented upsurge in motorcycle ownership is being fuelled by the ever-increasing levels of 'disposable income' of certain persons in the areas affected in the west, as well as the affordability of the small motorcycles. When policemen try to educate motorcyclists and prosecute those who do not use helmets and otherwise contravene the law, community members do not cooperate with the police who are trying to protect them as well as uphold the law. This makes it very difficult to apprehend them when they break the law,” the NRSC stated in a release.

Furthermore, when the police seize motorcycles the owners do not return for them, and instead simply purchase another motorcycle, which is often not licensed. This has caused storage capacity problems for the police.

Even more troubling, the council noted, is the fact that the majority of motorcyclists do not hold a licence to drive their motorcycle, and many only have a learner's permit which they can use indefinitely — as the law is not specific enough to require them to upgrade to having licences. The NRSC added, however, that the new Road Traffic Act has rectified this loophole and will soon require that motorcycle drivers have a driver's licence.

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