Montague promises new Road Traffic Act in January
The scene of a motor vehicle crash. Experts believe rules in the new Road Traffic Act will help to reduce the number of crashes on the nation's roads.

Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague says he is confident that regulations to the much-anticipated Road Traffic Act (RTA) will be tabled in Parliament before the end of January.

Montague's assurance should have some positive effect on a range of road traffic experts, road users and spokespersons for road accidents bodies, including Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who chairs the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), about the three-year-old delay which has been blamed for the rising numbers of deaths.

Since the start of the year, 475 Jamaicans have died fatally on the roads in 428 fatal crashes up to December 29. Fatal crashes and fatalities have both increased by 11 per cent and 10 per cent 10, respectively, compared with similar periods in 2020.

The Road Safety Unit (RSU) had reminded road users that the best Christmas present they can give is the gift of safety “for you, your family and other road users”, but that fell on deaf ears for some. Statistics from the RSU reveal that fatalities during curfew hours account for 34 per cent of the total fatalities since the start of the year.

Deputy chairman of the NRSC, Dr Lucien Jones, has consistently blamed the delay in the tabling of outstanding legislation for the rising number of road deaths. However, Montague, who has been under increased pressures from experts after delaying the tabling of the outstanding documents in the House of Representatives in mid-December, including the regulations for the effectiveness of the legislation, and amendments to ensure the pertinence of the Transport Authority Act (TAA), is optimistic that the wait will end in January.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday, Montague seemed extremely confident the prediction will be validated this time. “I don't want to be tied down to a date and then get myself in a mix-up, again. We were to do it on December 14 in the House of Representatives, and we didn't. But, we intend to do it as soon as the Cabinet signs off, which off in January,” he said.

Asked what were the main challenges arising in the process, he said that there were delays in completing the technical aspects of the legislation, which held up the final review of the documentation by the Cabinet's Legislative Committee.

“There is a process which was not concluded in time, but the only thing left now is for the Cabinet's consent. The technical people are 98 per cent complete, but they are continuing their work, despite the holiday, to ensure that the documents will be ready on time to be laid in the House,” he noted.

An example of the hold-ups, according to the minister, was how to incorporate some of the activities of the Transport Authority (TA) in the new RTA Bill, to provide the legislative basis for the TA's continuing relevance.

“So, we had to lift from the old Road Traffic Act to amend the new Transport Authority Act, because the law cannot be conflicting. We had to check to ensure that everybody is in line with the new regulations. We could not sign off on these regulations, until we signed off on the amendments to the TA Act. So we were doing several things at the same time,” he noted.

However, he warned that once the process has been completed and approved everybody who use road traffic will have to work with the new provisions.

“We have to draw a line on the situation that is happening out there, and if we are going to be a developed nation, there has to be rules and regulations and people have to abide by them, otherwise there is going to be chaos and anarchy,” he stated.

The new Road Traffic Bill, which will repeal and replace the existing 1938 Act, was passed in the House of Representatives in February, 2018. The legislation, piloted by then Minister of Transport and Mining Mike Henry, was approved with 131 amendments. It will establish new offences, as well as provide increased penalties for breaches.

Features include restrictions on handheld devices while driving, and a requirement for drivers to have a licence in their possession while operating a vehicle. Also, all motorcyclists must have a driver's licence instead of a provisional licence.

Under the new Road Traffic Act, drivers of motorcycles will be required to have a driver's licence.
BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter bvalfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

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