Senate passes new Road Traffic Act
THE new Road Traffic Act was finally approved by Parliament yesterday, but its implementation is unlikely to be completed prior to next April.
The Senate passed the five-year-old Bill, which has survived several reviews since 2014, after a prolonged debate, during which some Opposition members raised several concerns but did not vote against the provisions. However, the regulations are likely to take another three to four months.
Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith told the Senate that the Bill was not about revenue nor discrimination against route taxi drivers, but about creating a safe environment for all road users.
“We have to act now as too many lives are being lost to wanton road terror… and the simple truth is that these bad practices have continued because of the failure of the legislative framework to provide an enforcement mechanism to make undisciplined road users accountable for their actions,” Senator Johnson Smith, who is also the minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, told the Senate.
She said that the new framework, which will be introduced under the new Road Traffic Act, would reduce the opportunity for human error or corruption interrupting enforcement.
“The facilitation of disorder without accountability must change now, and the urgent need for new legislation and robust enforcement by technology, as well, cannot be overstated,” she said.
Opposition member Senator Floyd Morris, who was acting as Leader of Opposition Business in the absence of Senator Donna Scott Mottley, felt that some provisions, including that which requires the owners of vehicles to be held responsible for unpaid fines for breaches committed by drivers of their vehicles, were unfair.
Senator Wentworth Skeffery expressed a lack of confidence in the system to deal with drivers responsible for the breaches, as he noted that with more than 400,000 traffic tickets being issued by traffic cops it was obvious that the police are not the problem, but instead what happens after they have done their part.
He said that the State has been weak in dealing with the issues at that level, and there was no indication that it would change with the new provisions.
Senator K D Knight also criticised the provisions for vehicle owners to be held responsible for unpaid tickets for breaches, and accused the Government of shifting responsibility for finding the guilty drivers from the police to the owners.
But, Senator Johnson Smith said the motor vehicle owners must now take responsibility for what happens during the use of their vehicles.
She acknowledged the delay in the Bill returning to the Senate with the new amendments, after it was already passed there with 161 amendments in May. However, she noted that the Bill has been “long in coming”, and had cut across administrations, and that work has been done to ensure it is done right.
She also agreed with Senator Knight that there were “rogue” police officers who have given the force a bad name regarding corruption, but that the commissioner is doing his part to reduce any possibility of corruption prevailing in the promulgation of the provisions.