Heavy reliance on tech to give teeth to road safety pushWednesday, January 05, 2022
PORT MARIA, St Mary — When regulations are tabled in Parliament for the amendments to the Road Traffic Act, a move expected this month, it will pave the way for heavier reliance on technology to nab those who break the law.
“We will be laying the regulations to the new Road Traffic Act in January and also… the amendments to the Transport Authority Act,” said Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague at a recent St Mary function.
“The legislative changes will increase the fines, and will make some items criminal that were not criminal. For example, issuing false or fraudulent documents will be a very serious offence,” he added.
The minister also noted that there will be a database that keeps track of traffic offences, and once an individual exceeds a certain number of tickets they will be deprived of certain services.
“We have now linked the issuance of tickets, passports, driver's licence to your TRN [tax registration number],” he said.
Those who have failed to heed previous warnings and urgings to follow the rules that will make the roads safe for all users, will now suffer the consequences, he said.
“Since you can't hear, you will feel,” said Montague.
Last year was one of the deadliest for road users in Jamaica, with 482 people being killed in traffic crashes between January 1 and December 31, 2021.
Among the items in its toolkit to make the roads safer, the transport ministry has been pushing the use of technology such as driving simulators and a digital version of the driving test. Simulators, Montague said, will eventually be incorporated into the practical part of the test.
“We are pilot-testing it at the Swallowfield depot to have that in the whole licensing process,” he said.
Geo-fencing technology will also play a role in the issuing of fitness certificates as vehicles have to be within a certain range for the issuing of the machine-generated documents. For years there have been allegations of the system being circumvented, with driver's licences and other documentation available for a fee. All the proposed changes are expected to make the entire process more transparent and less prone to manipulation.
In addition to making the roads safer, the Road Traffic Amendment Validation and Indemnity Act (2021) will also pave the way for the Government to legally rake in revenue from fines proposed 16 years ago. The 2021 Act seeks to amend the Road Traffic Act (1938) to include penalties that were established in 2006 and 2007 by provisional tax orders signed by then Finance Minister Dr Omar Davies. Motorists have been paying the increased fines since 2006, though the legislative changes were not completed.
In November, after a motorist successfully brought a legal challenge, the Government pushed through a two-clause amendment to the old Road Traffic Act in both Houses of Parliament. The next step is for the regulations to be tabled.
— Davia Ellis