Sen­ate passes new Road Traf­fic Act

Daily Observer (Jamaica) - - NEWS - BY BALFORD HENRY

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.

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