Regional

Bike clampdown!

Police intensifies drive to remove illegal motorcycles from the streets of Westmoreland

BY HORACE HINES Observer West reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, March 07, 2013    

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SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — The Police Traffic Department in Westmoreland has revved up its drive to remove all illegally- operated motorcycles from the streets of the parish, in a bid to curb road fatalities.

According to statistics from the police traffic headquarters, 25 persons died in Westmoreland last year, as a result of injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents. Ten of those killed were bikers.

And since the start the year, motorcyclists accounted for four of the five persons killed in vehicular accidents on the Westmoreland roads.

Head of the Police Traffic Department in Westmoreland Inspector Amos Thompson earlier this week issued a strong warning to persons operating motorcycles as taxis in the parish, urging them to desist the unlawful practice.

He also urged pillion riders to "avoid the bikes."

" A word of warning to members of the public that in the event of an accident you might be killed, seriously injured, and the worse part is that you will not be covered by insurance. These motorcycles are not even bearing registration plates so you know that they are not licensed, insured or passed by a certified officer and the pillion passengers who are also not wearing protective helmets will be prosecuted for these offences and taken before the court," Thompson warned.

He noted that a number of these motorcycles were recently purchased and the owners were not even in possession of a provisional driver's license.

" They just go out and purchase these motorcycles and proceed to operate them as taxis. Members of the public who support them must be aware of this".

But, Convener of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) Dr Lucien Jones, who argued that the motorbike taxis provide a service which is a deeply rooted-social custom for commuters, especially in the hilly areas of the parish, called on the parliamentary representatives in Westmoreland to provide an alternative transportation system.

" Based of what we have been told by the police, it is a deeply ingrained cultural problem and they (motorbike taxis) provide a service for people. What they would need is to put in place an alternative transport system because they (commuters) coming out of the hills and sometimes they don't have transportation," Dr Jones told the Observer West.

He was, however, quick to point out that the operation of the two-wheeled taxis, which at times transport up to six commuters at a time, pose a safety threat.

" The second part of it is the safety issue," he stressed. "Because they have more than one pillion which is illegal, and secondly they don't wear helmets, and most of the people they carry don't wear helmets. So from that point of view there is the safety problem," added the vice-chairman and convenor of National Road Safety Council (NRSC).

He added: "So it something that we are aware of, something we have spoken about, but it is a challenging social problem to deal with. The police try to do their best because it is illegal to carry so much persons on a bike taxi, but they meet up on a lot of resistance".

One Sheffield resident, cabaret singer Shandy Man, was in support of the motor bike taxi operators.

"To be honest even though it is risky and serious things can happen, it is better to see them doing something than to be behind bars," the entertainer told the Observer West. " Somebody need to do it because there is a demand for it."

In the meantime, Inspector Thompson said since the drive got underway in January, more than 300 motorcycles that were found without proper documentation have been seized during operations in Negril, Sheffield, Little London, Petersfield, Savanna-la-Mar and Grange Hill.

"Through a concerted effort by members of the Westmoreland Police Division we have managed to rid the streets of a number of illegal motorcycles operating on our streets. Some of these motorcycles have been used in the commission of several crimes throughout the division, as well as used as bike taxis," said the head of the Westmoreland police traffic department .

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