Mo­tor ve­hi­cle amend­ment: was some­one drunk at the wheel?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Toni Ni­cholas

On Tues­day Au­gust 4 the STAR re­ceived an email from po­lice press re­la­tions of­fi­cer Zachary Hip­polyte. The sub­ject; Amend­ments to the Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles and Road Traf­fic Act. It read: “The public is hereby ad­vised of the fol­low­ing amend­ments made to the Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles and Road Traf­fic Act 2008, Sec­tion 85, Fail­ing to Pro­duce a Driver’s Li­cence, Per­mit or other Driver’s Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and Reg­is­tra­tion Doc­u­ment.

The amended Act is then stated: “(1) On ev­ery oc­ca­sion when a per­son drives a mo­tor ve­hi­cle or trailer, that per­son shall have pos­ses­sion of his or her valid driver’s li­cence, per­mit or other driver’s iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ment and the reg­is­tra­tion doc­u­ment in re­la­tion to the mo­tor ve­hi­cle or trailer. (2) A traf­fic of­fi­cer may stop and re­quest a driver to pro­duce his or her li­cence, per­mit or other driver’s iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ment, the cer­tifi­cate of reg­is­tra­tion or other reg­is­tra­tion doc­u­ment is­sued un­der this Act or the ap­pli­ca­ble law in re­la­tion to a mo­tor ve­hi­cle or trailer be­ing driven. (3) Where a re­quest is made un­der sub­sec­tion (2), the driver to whom the re­quest is made shall pro­duce im­me­di­ately for ex­am­i­na­tion by the traf­fic of­fi­cer - (a) His or her driver’s li­cence, per­mit or other driver’s iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ment; and (b) The cer­tifi­cate of reg­is­tra­tion or other reg­is­tra­tion doc­u­ments, which must in­clude the cer­tifi­cate of in­sur­ance or such ev­i­dence as may be pre­scribed in re­la­tion to the use of the mo­tor ve­hi­cle.”

Then the email de­tails the penalty: “A per­son who con­tra­venes sub­sec­tion (3) com­mits an of­fence and is li­able on sum­mary con­vic­tion to a fine not ex­ceed­ing one thou­sand dol­lars or to im­pris­on­ment for a term not ex­ceed­ing three months or both.”

Wrote the po­lice press of­fi­cer: “There­fore, please be ad­vised that the pe­riod of 48 hours to pro­duce doc­u­ments un­der Sec­tion 85 is no longer ap­pli­ca­ble.”

There was in­stant re­ac­tion to the amend­ment by mem­bers of the public, many in op­po­si­tion. The for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity min­is­ter also joined the de­bate on Mon­day. Guy May­ers called on cit­i­zens to protest the new reg­u­la­tions adding that it would fur­ther strain the re­la­tions be­tween cit­i­zens and po­lice.

The for­mer min­is­ter for trans­port has also had his say. Ac­cord­ing to Guy Joseph, the li­cence of­fice had run out of ma­te­rial to pro­duce the li­cences so that it takes peo­ple more than a week to get their driver’s li­cence. “So what hap­pens if my li­cence has been paid but I have not been is­sued the rel­e­vant doc­u­ments?” asked Joseph who de­scribes the mea­sure as un­fair.

On Tues­day Si­las Wil­son, ex­ec­u­tive As­sis­tant to the Min­is­ter of In­fra­struc­ture, Port Ser­vices and Trans­port is­sued a state­ment on the mat­ter in an at­tempt to clar­ify the is­sue. “Over the last week, there has been much public dis­cus­sion about changes to the reg­u­la­tions re­gard­ing the Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles and Road Traf­fic Act. The Min­istry of In­fra­struc­ture, Port Ser­vices and Trans­port wishes to bring clar­ity to this mat­ter,” the state­ment com­menced.

“Firstly, the last amend­ment to the Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles and Road Traf­fic Act Cap 8.01 was done in 2006. Sec­tion 85 of this law gives a Traf­fic Of­fi­cer the au­thor­ity to re­quest that a per­son driv­ing a mo­tor ve­hi­cle pro­duces a driver’s li­cence for ex­am­i­na­tion. Fail­ure to com­ply could re­sult in a fine not ex­ceed­ing $1,000.00 or im­pris­on­ment for a pe­riod not ex­ceed­ing three (3) months,” it fur­ther ex­plained.

The state­ment then went on to say that by pub­li­ca­tion of Statu­tory In­stru­ment (SI) 46 of May 2015, vi­o­la­tion of sec­tion 85 in the Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles and Road Traf­fic Act has been made a tick­etable of­fence. The fine that this of­fence now at­tracts will not ex­ceed $250.00 as op­posed to the pre­vi­ous $1,000.00.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry these changes be­came nec­es­sary be­cause the pre­vi­ous mech­a­nism of 48 hours was be­ing ex­ploited and was prov­ing to be un­re­li­able as per­sons were be­ing dis­hon­est by not pro­vid­ing fac­tual in­for­ma­tion about their iden­tity. Fur­ther, that there have also been cases where per­sons who have been in­volved in ac­ci­dents have left the is­land leav­ing the other par­ties at great loss and with­out the means to be com­pen­sated. The re­quire­ment for hav­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion on one’s per­son is pri­mar­ily for en­sur­ing that a driver can be iden­ti­fied at the time of an ac­ci­dent or sub­se­quently traced.

The Min­istry went on to say that changes to the reg­u­la­tions should there­fore be viewed by cit­i­zens as pos­i­tive at­tempts by the gov­ern­ment to en­sure safety on our roads for both driv­ers and pedes­tri­ans.

The ques­tion now is: where did the po­lice get their in­for­ma­tion, es­pe­cially about the amount of the fine, in the first in­stance? Also how will this new amend­ment curb the car­nage now preva­lent on our roads as well as the pro­lif­er­a­tion of driv­ers speed­ing and riders with­out hel­mets? In an era of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy can’t a sim­ple po­lice hand-held de­vice be used to de­ter­mine the va­lid­ity of some­one’s mo­tor ve­hi­cle doc­u­ments? Fi­nally, why did it take the Min­istry of In­fra­struc­ture an en­tire week to lend its voice to the de­bate and of­fer some clar­ity?

Si­las Wil­son, as­sis­tant to In­fra­struc­ture

Min­is­ter Philip Pierre.

Zachary Hip­polyte, Po­lice Press

Re­la­tions Of­fi­cer.

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