Putting the brakes on road hogs
Electronic ticketing system among new road traffic regulations approved by House
Speed cameras like this will be mounted on Jamaica's roads in order to provide technological monitoring for traffic offences.

UNRULY motorists could soon have their traffic violations detected on camera and be ticketed electronically for those offences, including speeding, disobeying traffic signals, and operating unlicensed and uninsured vehicles.

On Tuesday the House of Representatives gave the nod to the new 299 regulations which lay down a slate of new offences and fines under the 2018 Road Traffic Bill — now updated to a 2022 amendment Bill — to facilitate new minor provisions that will enable accurate implementation of the regulations.

"These are common practices in developed countries worldwide using technology to monitor roads," Transport Minister Audley Shaw pointed out as he brought the regulations before the House.

He said not only will offences be detected by camera and other devices installed by the Island Traffic Authority (ITA), but tickets will also be issued electronically.

Under the new Road Traffic Act motorcyclists will be required to wear Bureau of Standards Jamaica-approved helmets, whether purchased locally or overseas.

"Where traffic offences are detected remotely, the owner of the vehicle will receive the ticket," he emphasised, adding that adjustments will be made to the regulations to include any additional devices or provisions that become necessary as time goes on.

Also, general driving rules that have traditionally only been included in the road code — such as driving on the left, right-of-way rules at intersections, overtaking and other manoeuvres, and parking prohibitions — are embedded in the regulations.

Furthermore, the authority will be empowered to require an owner to present any vehicle for examination for fitness certification, while new rules governing demonstration plates will allow the authority to better monitor their use. Additionally, motor vehicle dealers will have to pay an annual fee for use of those plates.

Motorcyclists, who accounted for 34 per cent of the road fatalities last year, will also now need to wear Bureau of Standards Jamaica-approved helmets, whether purchased locally or overseas, as well as high-visibility vests. All motor bikes must be sold along with helmets, the transport minister stressed.

Meanwhile, demerit points on licences will expire after 15 months, as long as less than 10 points are earned during the period. The ITA can, however, require training or retesting for people whose licences are suspended. After the suspension period those demerit points are to be expunged, according to the regulations.

Minister Shaw pointed out that not all sections of the law will be brought into operation immediately, as institutional arrangements have to be in place for some of the new provisions to take effect. Instead, a phased implementation plan is being finalised with key stakeholders.

The Road Traffic Act was passed in December 2018. The 2022 amendment, which was also passed by the House on Tuesday, amends nine sections and one schedule, and includes provisions to expand the definition of motorcycles to include any other vehicle so constructed, such as three-wheeled units.

Opposition spokesman Mikael Phillips said his side welcomed the regulations, which have long been in the making, but noted that there was a disconnect between the law and the realities on the ground. He stressed that there must be firm enforcement, as without this the regulations and the Act would come to naught.

He pointed to the long-standing requirement for all motorcyclists to wear a helmet against the reality of this segment of road users representing a fifth of all road fatalities, according to official data.

"We have had, for years in our laws, the wearing of helmets and the wearing of seatbelts yet there are persons out there who are riding motorcycles, and vehicles exceeding the speed limit without any enforcement being done," he said.

The Manchester North Western Member of Parliament also stressed the need for an intense public education campaign given the extensive nature of the new offences and provisions in the law, and the penalties.

The House also passed the 2022 Transport Authority (amendment) Bill, which modifies the 1987 Act to appropriately empower the regulator to carry out its responsibilities. The changes incorporate current trends in the public transport sector, and are aimed at strengthening the authority's administrative processes in order to target indiscipline and corruption in the sector.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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