WITH several people having lost their lives because of vehicular collisions involving units parked on the side of the road, sometimes in unlit areas and without reflectors, blame is being placed squarely at the feet of the police — and the police say Jamaicans have a right to be concerned.
Opposition spokesperson on transport Mikael Phillips blames ineffectiveness in enforcing the law, specifically pertaining to vehicles being parked in a manner which poses a danger to motorists.
“Trucks and other vehicles being parked on the road is a long-standing issue and we have seen from time to time people meeting in accidents, some losing their lives, because of vehicles being parked in dark areas or just broken down and left for days,” Phillips told the Jamaica Observer. “This comes back to the lack of enforcement by the authorities, and by the police especially.”
He pointed out that the Road Traffic Act speaks to these issues, stressing that “[I]f we have laws and we don’t have enforcement, then what we’re going to see are issues like this, like the recent one on Mandela Highway where a young lady lost her life…”
Phillips was referring to a multi-vehicle crash two weeks ago which claimed the life of 23-year-old Shadedra Williams. According to the police, about 5:45 am, Williams was a passenger in a Mercedes Benz SUV travelling on the highway heading to St Catherine when the vehicle collided with a parked truck.
As a result of the collision, the SUV careened and crashed into a Suzuki Vitara motor car that was travelling in the same direction. Williams suffered serious injuries and was pronounced dead at hospital.
“So it comes down to an issue of enforcement, just the police, the authorities being ignorant of the law; and it has become a part of our culture. But there needs to be a change in how it is in our own culture how we deal with issues like this, especially for the police force itself,” Phillips said.
He argued that in other jurisdictions, Jamaicans abide by the laws that are set there, and should do the same in their own country.
“Even if it is that the vehicle cannot be moved immediately, there ought to be some signal, reflectors out there to show that there is a vehicle that has been broken down on the side of the road. So it comes down to enforcement and this is something that needs to be enforced, as a matter of urgency,” he said.
Under the new Road Traffic Act, a motorist can be fined $6,000 for parking in a no-parking area and attracts three demerit points. For leaving/abandoning a motor vehicle on the road causing obstruction, the fine is $5,000; while the penalty for having no reflectors is a $5,000 fine and two demerit points.
But, according to vice-chairman of the National Road Safety Council Dr Lucien Jones, as long as the vehicles have reflectors and the parking isn’t in an area not allowed for parking, then there is not much that can be done about that situation.
“They [drivers] are, [however], liable for prosecution if the truck is parked on the road with no reflectors,” Dr Jones said.
“The general point is that we ought to do everything possible to prevent vehicles crashing into unlit parked vehicles,” he said, pointing out that the police are responsible for enforcing all aspects of the Road Traffic Act.
There has also been public outcry about the situation, including from well-known figures. This includes Seprod Group CEO Richard Pandohie.
In a recent social media post, Pandohie shared a picture of a container parked on the side of a dark street with the message, “40ft container parked at an apartment development on a well used road in a residential community with no reflector lights. @JamaicaConstab what should citizens do when they see this? So many unnecessary accidents on our roads because of stupid behaviour/actions.”
Users commented under the post mainly agreeing with Pandohie’s sentiments, with one individual stating that elsewhere in the world these vehicles are impounded and the owner ticketed.
“In Jamaica it is a free-for-all. They cause accidents and, even worse, deaths, with no one being held accountable,” the user noted.
Another user said the container should not be parked on the road, similarly for construction vehicles and equipment. “I called the police about something similar and this trailer was parked in the road near to the stop sign,” the user recalled.
“It’s a huge risk seen many times across the roadways. Trucks have inadequate reflectors and can be a big hazard on the highway. Recall the tragic staff bus accident of hotel workers heading home in Ocho Rios colliding with a parked truck with the back sticking out on the road,” another commenter lamented.
The user was referring to the crash on the north coast highway in Rio Bueno, Trelawny, in November 2022, where two male Excellence Oyster Bay hotel employees died after the Toyota Coaster bus that was transporting workers to the hotel slammed into a truck parked on the soft shoulder.
When the concerns were raised with head of the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Gary McKenzie, he told the Observer that Jamaicans have a right to be concerned “when breaches of any sort are seen, and it appears that enforcement is not being done”.
“The responsibility to treat with parking violations includes the police, the municipal authority and the Transport Authority [public passenger and commercial vehicles]. Whilst I know that multiple prosecutions are done weekly, all entities may have to redouble their efforts in working together to reduce/alleviate the problem. This is a matter that the entities are expected to pursue jointly, going forward,” he said.
While not stating how many motorists have been sanctioned for parking violations, ACP McKenzie explained that vehicles, to include trucks, are required to park in areas that are designated for such activity.
“Where there are no designated areas, vehicles, to include trucks, are expected to be parked off the roadway or on hard shoulders, where they exist. It is of importance that all vehicles, and in particular trucks, are to have reflectors that will illuminate when lights shine on them. Trucks are not to be parked at corners, in intersections, on sidewalks or roads to cause obstruction,” he said.
“Wherever vehicles, to include trucks, are parked in a dangerous manner or are causing obstruction, the persons [drivers] responsible are subject to prosecution. Where there are no drivers/owners available to remove these vehicles, they are liable to be towed and impounded until the driver/owner is found or report to the police/municipal authority. When the drivers/owners are found, or [when they] report, they are subject to prosecution for breaching parking laws or causing obstruction,” he said.
On the matter of redress for survivors of such crashes, ACP McKenzie noted that when there is a collision, the circumstance around it is investigated and the culpable party is subject to prosecution.
“The aggrieved party may pursue civil action before or after the police investigation. Once an aggrieved party is successful by virtue of the court’s decision, the matter for compensation may be pursued,” he said.