Cabbies call for more traffic courts
There was heavier than usual traffic at the St Ann Parish Court last Monday as motorists tried to pay traffic fines before the deadline.

PUBLIC transport operators have doubled down on their pleas for fair treatment from the Government in regard to the new road traffic law, calling for more traffic courts across the island, especially in Kingston and St Andrew.

The call, on behalf of the operators, was made by Andrea Moore Phillips, legal advisor to Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODSS), at the first in a series of town hall meetings on the new Road Traffic Act held at Melbourne Cricket Club in St Andrew on Sunday.

"If the law is not being fair to us then you have resistance and lack of cooperation and compliance. You cannot have a court system where you have three or four courts designated, but only two are operational. We need more traffic courts in Jamaica, particularly in Kingston, to deal with these matters so that if somebody gets a ticket they will be more than willing to pay — if they can get the date," she said. "It has to be a situation where we fix the system to assist the Jamaican Government to achieve their revenue objective, but also [see to] the safety of the motoring public."

Motorists outside the Kingston Traffic Court last week (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

She said some operators are pleading guilty to offences that they have not committed, or do not understand, out of fear of having to return to court and miss out of days of earnings.

"I've been in court and I've seen motorists, including transport operators, and their body language tell you implicitly that they're not guilty but they do not wish to spend the time [with] half-day already passed. They have no lawyer to come in early and have their matters heard within an hour, they've deprived themselves of half-day already, and when they are finally called up then they have to plead [guilty] in order not to come back and spend another day to challenge a ticket. That is not a fair approach to any motorist. The system needs to be addressed," she said.

Meanwhile, Moore Phillips pointed to provisions in the new Road Traffic Act, such as the requirement for child restraint seats, which has caused outcry among operators and been the brunt of social media jokes over the past several days since the law came into effect.

Moore Phillips argued that while it is incumbent on motorists to obey the law, the authorities also have an obligation to address the problem of insufficient critical road furniture and signs to indicate zones, and lack of road furniture to indicate zones such as those for schools and hospitals.

A policeman holds up a sign outside the Corporate Traffic Court advising motorists of the online service available. (Photo: Vanessa James)

She also highlighted the requirement for motorists to engage a wrecking service in the event of their vehicle being disabled. "A taximan who has a Probox decides that he's going to tow his colleague who breaks down on the road — that is now a ticketable offence. You're being forced to only seek the assistance of a wrecker service; that shouldn't be. This isn't just applicable to taxi operators, it is for all of the motoring public — so while we might be up in arms, be minded that all of these are relevant to all of us."

Moore Phillips insisted that there needs to be a level playing field to allow public transport operators to "operate in peace and obey the law".

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter

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