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Island Traffic Authority empowered to suspend licences for road violations

Monday, March 25, 2019

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DIRECTOR of the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport and Mining Kenute Hare says the new Road Safety Act better empowers the Island Traffic Authority in ensuring safety on the roadways in order to reduce injuries and deaths from crashes.

He said the authority will be able to suspend driver's licences for various violations.

“So if people accumulate between 10 and 13 points, their driver's licence will be suspended for six months; 14 to 19 points, the driver's licence will be suspended for one year; and for 20 and over points, the driver's licence will be suspended for two years.

“That was something the Island Traffic Authority wasn't able to execute prior to this,” he noted.

Under the new legislation, the functions of the Island Traffic Authority include, among other things, development and implementation of traffic-calming measures; testing of applicants for learner's permits and driver's licences; licensing and registering of motor vehicles; licensing and regulation of driving instructors and driving schools; and the setting of minimum standards for the operation of driving instructors and driving schools.

Hare, in welcoming the legislation, says it allows Jamaica to align its road safety operations in accordance with 21st century standards and the United Nations (UN) best practices for member states, in order to stem the tide of traffic crashes.

“I believe that this new Act is very timely, especially as we approach the end of the Decade of Action for Road Safety, which is from 2011 to 2020. We have been able to achieve some things, but this new Road Traffic Act is a very good step in the right direction, as our systems now will be much better aligned and will bring us up to speed to the changes that have been occurring with motor vehicles technologically,” he said.

The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was officially proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in March 2010. Its goal is to stabilise and reduce the level of road traffic deaths around the world.

Data provided by the Road Safety Unit showed that since the start of the year, 90 people have died. Pedestrians, motorcyclists, passengers and drivers of private motor vehicles have recorded the highest number of fatalities to date. Some 389 Jamaicans were killed on the roadway in 2018.

A breakdown of the figures reveal that 21 were pedestrians; seven pedal cyclists; 26 motorcyclists and two pillion passengers; 15 private motor vehicle passengers; two passengers of commercial motor vehicles; one driver of a public passenger vehicle; 15 drivers of private motor vehicles; and one commercial motor vehicle driver.

The Act, which was passed last year and has received the assent of the Governor General, provides for new offences larger fines and harsher penalties for motor vehicle operators who breach the law.

Some of the offences for which heavy fines will be imposed include driving without the required motor vehicle insurance coverage ($20,000); driving a motor vehicle without being the holder of a permit or driver's licence ($40,000); failure of a driver to obey the traffic light or stop sign ($10,000); failure to wear a protective helmet in the prescribed manner of the prescribed shape, quality, construction or standard ($8,000); and failure to obey other traffic signs ($6,000).

Other offences include driving a motor vehicle without the passenger wearing a seat belt ($2,000); failure to cause pillion passengers to wear a protective helmet in the prescribed manner at all times while riding on the motorcycle ($8,000); failure to comply with traffic signs in school safety zones ($10,000); and using electronic communication device while driving or operating a vehicle contrary to this Act ($10,000).

Hare said that road users have no need to fear the fines as long as they obey the legislation.

“Fines are really for lawbreakers,” he noted. “We are hoping that people will modify their behaviour and develop more road safety consciousness, which is what we would want to see happening. We don't want people to be viewing the Road Traffic Act as an Act for fines. [It is there] to ensure that we operate on the road network in a safe and dignified manner.”

On the matter of the Road Code, the legislation requires that this be renewed every five years.

“The Road Code is very important, and I think for the first time this is entrenched in our Act, which is a very good step. This is something that the Island Traffic Authority will ensure is done (updated) for the public to have quality information, thus being able to make better choices in the traffic environment,” Hare stated.

He said the Ministry of Transport and Mining will be undertaking a public education campaign on the Act.

“Very soon, the ministry will be enlightening the population so that they become much more aware of the different components of the Road Traffic Act. So things are being done to provide the public with the requisite information,” he said.


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