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New traffic law not a money-making measure

We want order on the streets but we don't want the necessary measures, says SSP Allen

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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The head of the police Traffic and Highway Division has dismissed criticisms that the just-passed Road Traffic Bill, with its slew of increased fines and offences, is nothing but a cash cow for the Government.

According to Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Calvin Allen, Jamaicans must remember that the aim is to stem the disorder and carnage on the nation's roads, therefore severe measures are needed in order to help curb the mindset and behaviour of unruly road users.

“We just want people to remember where we are and where we want to go… you will always continue to commit the breaches if the consequences are not severe,” Allen told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“You need severe consequences that are going to create a different mindset. It's not just a matter of just a revenue stream, it's a measure to deter and change behaviour. You can keep all your money in your pocket as long as you obey the law, drive within the speed limit, obey the traffic signs, wear your seat belt and so on. We want to eat our cake and have it, but if you eat your cake you no longer have it. We want order on the streets but we don't want the necessary measures to be put in place to create that order,” he argued.

The legislation, which was passed with 131 amendments in the House of Representatives on February 6, replaces the outdated Act of 1938, which was last updated in 2005. The long-anticipated Bill is to be debated in the Senate, where it is expected to be passed unanimously, to give way to implementation.

The police have, over the years and under successive administrations, expressed an urgent need for the passage of the revised law to assist them with the many challenges they face due to lawlessness among motorists. One of the main issues highlighted was that there was no coordination between Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) and the police to ensure that multiple offenders and those with unpaid tickets are not able to reapply for driver's licences, and conduct other related business with TAJ. Weaknesses in the law have been blamed for that loophole.

Yesterday, SSP Allen stressed the need for robust enforcement, pointing out that the police had written 508,910 tickets last year. He quickly countered the argument that the large number of tickets written has not translated into any significant improvement in the recklessness on the roads, pointing out that there was a 17 per cent reduction in road fatalities for 2017 over 2016, or 58 fewer lives lost.

“I will not rule out that through our public education efforts, persons have modified their behaviour, they have listened, learned, digested and applied. Things can get better, it has to get better and it will get better,” he insisted.

Allen was also firm on the issue of bribery, reminding that it is not only an offence for the police to accept or seek bribes, but that people who make offers are also committing a criminal offence.

“We want persons to recognise that it is no joke thing. The only place you ought to take out your money is when you go to the tax office to pay. From where I sit, along with the entire high command, we frown at the unprofessional behaviour of any officer who would seeks to take advantage (of the public) one way or another. We encourage the public that if you can capture images of an untoward nature, we are prepared to deal with it,” he stated.

Among the extended list of hefty fines offenders could face are: $500,000 for reckless or dangerous driving leading to death; up to $1 million for operating a motor vehicle that exceeds the maximum laden weight; $45,000 for driving without evidence of insurance, a valid certificate of fitness or motor vehicle licence; and $50,000 for applying for or holding multiple driver's licences or permits of the same class.

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