Montague says new Road Traffic Act 'groundbreaking'

Vehicle owners to be liable for drivers' actions

BY TANESHA MUNDLE
Observer staff reporter
mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, November 17, 2018

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THE Government is moving to penalise motorists for road traffic breaches that are detected by traffic cameras and other electronic devices.

In fact, in instances where the driver of the motor vehicle involved in the road traffic breach cannot be identified the owner of the vehicle will be held accountable.

The Government also wants to hold motor vehicle owners accountable for traffic offences committed by individuals they have authorised to drive their vehicles.

Speaking at a Transportation Reform Proposal Consultation on Wednesday at Hotel Four Seasons in Kingston, Transport Minister Robert Montague revealed the proposals, which form part of the last five amendments for the new Road Traffic Act. The amendments were approved in the Lower House on Tuesday.

“This is groundbreaking in Jamaica, and we are leading the Western Hemisphere with [the measure] that the owners will be liable for the actions of whoever is operating their vehicle,” the minister said.

“We have also made the modification in the law that you can be prosecuted for the use of electronic devices. So we can use the traffic camera at an intersection to say that you have broken the traffic light, you have switched lane and all of that; the law never allowed for that, but it does now, and you can be ticketed.

“The other one is if by electronic means a breach is detected and the driver cannot be identified, the ticket will be issued to the registered owner of the vehicle,” Montague said.

However, he said after the fine is paid by the owner, no demerit points will be deducted from that person's licence, as it has not been proven that the owner was the driver.

But the minister stressed that the vehicle owners have a duty of care to know who he or she is handing the vehicle over to, and should therefore ensure that that person is competent enough to safely operate their vehicle.

Montague said, too, that all vehicle owners have a duty to themselves to report their vehicle missing once it is stolen to avoid facing sanction if and when the vehicle is found in breach of the law.

“This applies to private and public motor vehicles; it applies to everybody. So those parents who like to give their underage children their vehicle to drive, especially around Carnival time and Christmastime… [saying], 'But him can drive long time,' and dem send him go shop and him lick down people, those days are over.

“The owner will be held accountable for their actions because a vehicle is not a toy. You can't just hand over your vehicle to any and any body,” Minister Montague said.

He also told the gathering that the Lower House gave its approval for motorists to produce an alternative form of identification when a breach is committed and they do not have their driver's licence in their possession, as well as for the transport minister, through the regulation, to set the standards for the electronic devices that will be used as technology changes over time.

Montague said the amendments have been sent to the Senate for approval, after which they will be returned the House of Representatives for final approval before it is sent to the governor general for his assent.

In the meantime, the minister said that the 16-point proposal for the public passenger vehicle (PPV), which was announced in May, is going to revolutionise the industry and make it safer and more viable.

He said the Government believes in the power of the market and that it must allow the market to determine its saturation point. As a result, all routes have been opened since September 10 for individuals to apply. The cut-off date is November 30.

During this period, he said, for the first time, individuals can also apply for hackney carriage licences in parishes outside of Kingston as well as apply for Jamaica Urban Transit Company franchise licences within the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region.

“We are anticipating a mad rush for the last week, 'cause you know everybody a wait because Montague ago extend the time. But I am encouraging persons to come in and make use of the period because there will be no extension,” the minister said.

He also said that all drivers will be able to design and craft their own routes, and can change routes after keeping it for a minimum of 30 days.

Another of the proposals is that every PPV driver must be in possession of a badge that shows that they have gone through the requisite training. The badge will be suspended if the driver accumulates more than 10 demerit points.

However, once the tickets have been paid, the badge will be restored, but driving without a badge will incur a penalty for both the driver and vehicle.

It is also being proposed that drivers who are convicted rapists, thieves, child molesters, and gunmen will not be issued badges. The minister said this proposal is being reconsidered in light of the fact that individuals can be rehabilitated and deserve a second chance.

Another proposal that is being considered is a plan to crush any illegal taxi that is seized after its driver has been initially caught and warned.

The other proposals are as follows: Applications for licences will no longer go to the board; the renewal of licences in owner's birth month instead of in April; all public passenger vehicles must be fitted with vehicle locators; drivers must submit to annual customer service driver education training; the Transport Authority will develop a free taxi locator and safety smartphone application; once the Island Traffic Authority certifies a vehicle, that person can be issued with a road licence; drivers and owners must provide an update, with two weeks' notice, in case of change of address, colour of vehicle, or any relevant change.

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