Gov’t to review child restraint seat regulation
Prime Minister Andrew Holness says the requirement for child restraint seats in motor vehicles will be one of the issues dealt with in the first weekly review of the new Road Traffic Act (RTA).
Holness made the revelation in a statement on Thursday as the Government soaked up increasing flak over the provision, especially as it applies to taxis and other public passenger vehicles.
“The Government has taken note of the concerns regarding the requirement to convey a child in the appropriate child restraint system. The provision was first incorporated in the Road Traffic Act in 2001 and was specifically deliberated by the joint select committee chaired by Dr Omar Davies in 2015 which recommended that “the Act require that a child would have to be in a restraint system while being transported in a motor vehicle”, the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), which is chaired by the prime minister, said in a news release.
The release said that, in order to strengthen the implementation of the new RTA, Holness has directed the NRSC to undertake weekly reviews and provide reports on the enforcement and effectiveness of the measures as well as any concerns expressed by the public.
“The Government recognises that with these significant changes to the road traffic laws and enhanced enforcement, a period of consistent review has to be undertaken to ensure the engagement of the entire nation and to achieve a high level of compliance,” the council said, adding that the seat restraint system will be discussed at the next meeting of the NRSC on February 9, 2023.
“The continuous increase in road traffic deaths and injuries has been a major concern for this Government, and the new RTA and its effective enforcement is essential to reducing the risk of fatalities and keeping vulnerable road users safe, including pedestrians, cyclists, children, elders, and people with disabilities,” Holness said.
Meanwhile, the Opposition spokesman on transport Mikael Phillips said the Government has no one to blame for the backlash it is getting on the new road traffic regulations as it used its parliamentary majority “to bulldoze and vote down several Opposition proposals aimed at improving the draft”.
Phillips said the Opposition had “proposed hundreds of amendments” to the law, particularly Section 73 on child restraint systems, but most of those proposals were defeated.
Phillips said application of the provision to public passenger vehicles is impractical and burdensome on taxi operators. He said, although the provision was not new, successive governments, by convention, never enforced the rule on public transport operators.
“Neither the police nor transport authority inspectors has ever enforced, ticketed, or prosecuted any offence in the section,” he said, adding that the only way to prevent the public passenger transport system from descending into chaos is to exempt hackney contract and route taxi services from Section 73 until better arrangements are made to transport children, particularly in rural Jamaica.
Phillips also said that Opposition Leader Mark Golding will table a private member’s bill in Parliament to address the defects in Section 73 of the RTA.
He said the Opposition fully supports measures to improve road safety and better driving habits; “however, we do not support the impractical implementation of legislation which leads to discontent, disobedience, and the criminalisation of the ordinary citizen”.