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Egeton Newman calls for new traffic ticket amnesty; cites inefficiencies in system

Sunday, July 25, 2021

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS), which represents taxi and minibus operators, is urging the Government to grant another traffic ticket amnesty before the implementation of the new Road Traffic Act.

The call from TODSS comes despite the government's previous utterances that it will not be granting another amnesty for outstanding road traffic tickets.

In making the case for what would be a third ticket amnesty across two administrations, TODSS President, Egeton Newman argued that over the past four years the government, the courts, Tax Administration Jamaica, and the Police Traffic Department "have agreed that some traffic tickets were either wrongfully executed, or were properly executed, honored and returned as unpaid".

“If this is so then it is therefore clear that government should do the honorable thing and wipe the record and start fresh,” said Newman in a statement on Sunday.

“I always wonder how comes a person is allowed to have 20 outstanding tickets and still have a driver’s licence, continue to do business with government agencies or even travel,” Newman remarked.

The deficiencies in the Traffic Ticket Management System [TTMS] were laid bare before the Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee [PAAC] on January 15, 2019.

On that occasion, officials from the Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Justice, and representatives of the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch were summoned to appear before the committee to explain how hundreds of motorists were able to ignore nearly 90 per cent of the over 65,000 traffic tickets that were issued by the police over a six-month period seemingly without any repercussion.

In its response, the justice ministry acknowledged that there were "deficits in the accuracy and adequacy" of information sent to the courts. The ministry said this resulted in some judges being cautious about issuing arrest warrants for delinquent drivers.

Senior Court Statistician employed by the Ministry of Justice at the time, Dr Denarto Dennis, told the committee that there were deficits in the accuracy and adequacy of the updates made to the TTMS and transmitted to the court system. He pointed out that in several cases, data that may or may not have been updated at the tax offices were not adequately reflected in the TTMS and within the courts.

"Such gaps in the data has resulted in judges exercising due caution in issuing warrants as there have been a number of instances where warrants have been issued for persons who show up for court with proof that they actually paid their tickets," Dennis revealed.

Newman has asserted that the continued inefficiencies in government through its agencies “is worse than a million outstanding tickets hence they should do the honorable thing and don't put new wine in old bottles”.

Newman is urging Transport Minister Robert Montague to not only push his administration for a third ticket amnesty, but to grant transport operators what he calls a “livable fare adjustment”.

Two previous traffic ticket amnesties have raked in big bucks for the government. An amnesty that ran from July 1 to December 31, 2012 under the then People’s National Party Government raked in $340 million.

A second amnesty that ran in two phases from August to October, 2017 and from November 27, 2017 to January 13, 2018 raked in an impressive $846 million for the Jamaica Labour Party administration. Yet, when the last amnesty ended, the government indicated that $2 billion in unpaid traffic tickets remained uncollected.

A ticket amnesty is an initiative that involves motorists avoiding penalty in terms of the demerit points that were applicable to the tickets, and prosecution on warrants that were issued, once the tickets are paid up and accounted for on the official database.

The new Road Traffic Act which was passed into law in February, 2018 and which will repeal and replace the 1938 Act is yet to be implemented. It carries much stiffer fines and even jail time for breaches and will not be implemented before a massive public education campaign is conducted.