Traffic cops tightening grip on lawlessness for Christmas
A policeman checks a motorist's document on Eastwood Park Road.

HEAD of the Police Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch (PSTEB), Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Gary McKenzie said while traffic authorities await the roll-out of the new Road Traffic Act (RTA) in February special plans are being put in place to ensure order on the island's roads during the holiday period.

"The first thing is that we have [a] zero-tolerance approach for parking illegally. People park on sidewalks, leave their vehicles — especially trucks — on roadways to do deliveries, and so that is something we are coming out against at this time," he told the Jamaica Observer.

Speeding and improper overtaking, the factors behind the majority of road crashes and the resultant fatalities, will also be on the radar.

"People try to rush to do everything when it comes to Christmas so there is a special effort around that; we'll do more speed checks. We're also having a no-nonsense approach to defective vehicles, especially public passenger vehicles, because they tend to overload the vehicles at this time to try to carry more people, and they tend to do so at various times in the night," he pointed out, noting that the Island Traffic Authority will also be out in full force to check these vehicles.

He said the PSTEB will also be giving attention to drivers under the influence, and those operating their vehicles with excessive noise/loud music.

"Our main thoroughfare leading from high-entertainment areas, we are going to be positioning to make observations as to manner of driving and so on. Where persons are suspected of driving under the influence, we will take action – we will have persons arrested and taken to court. We have to seek to reduce road deaths and crashes," ACP McKenzie said.

He however stressed that the Noise Abatement Act does not only apply to entertainment events. "If you have music in your vehicle and it's playing where it exceeds a hundred meters, or it's annoying to citizens, the police can take action. In other circumstances they can take action, even under the Town and Community Act," he said, adding that these behaviours are unlawful in silent zones such as those where hospitals and infirmaries are located.

ACP McKenzie said administrative personnel will be out in their numbers to ensure maximum effect in cauterising bad behaviour by road users and reducing road deaths.

As of yesterday morning 461 people were killed in 400 fatal collisions — four more people since the start of the weekend — pulling the figures closer to the 487 deaths recorded last year.

At a meeting of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) convened last week to discuss road fatalities, Prime Minister and NRSC Chairman Andrew Holness described the current situation as a national road traffic crisis. He said if this continues Jamaica could possibly double its current rate of road traffic deaths and miss the United Nations target of reducing road traffic deaths and injuries by at least 50 per cent within the next eight years.

ACP McKenzie said there is also now an effort to acquire tint meters so that these devices can be more widely used to detect vehicle tints which are in breach of the allowable levels of tinting.

"Every single day we remove at least two PPVs, and so on, for that kind of illegal use [of tints]. As it is now, the law prohibits any tint on any public passenger vehicle that prevents inward view — and it is agreed that a tint of about 35 per cent would represent that — however, the challenge is the ability to do wide-scale testing," he said, noting that the regulations to the new Road Traffic Act actually set out this percentage stipulation.

Jamaica House advised last Monday that after wide-ranging consultations with government agencies and departments, Cabinet gave definitive instructions for the implementation of the RTA and the launch of the new traffic ticket management system. This is one of several measures which the Government has promised will be implemented under the RTA to try to curb errant road use behaviour and traffic deaths.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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