Enforce traffic laws and positive change will come

Friday, September 14, 2018

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We had hoped that the successful management of traffic in the Corporate Area on September 3, the start of the new academic year, would have lasted and indeed become the norm. However, the system started to crumble by the end of last week, and at the start of this week, the streets in several sections of the capital city were centres of chaos, confusion, and indiscipline.

Motorists and commuters have related stories of spending three hours and more in traffic, particularly in the morning, as alternative routes established to bypass road work, especially in Portia Simpson Miller Square, were clogged.

There were numerous reports of motorists, particularly the usually undisciplined taxi and minibus drivers, making the situation worse by using sidewalks to try to get around the congestion.

The upshot was lost man hours, as people got to work late, and many students were late for school.

In all of this, the police were heard complaining about the undisciplined behaviour of motorists. However, we had thought that the mandate of the constabulary's newly launched Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch (PSTEB) was to maintain order in public spaces.

The question therefore is where were the cops assigned to this branch on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning this week?

The formation of the PSTEB is a good move and is in keeping with views we have repeatedly expressed in this space about the value of maintaining order.

The problem, though, is that over the years the police have launched good programmes to maintain public order, particularly pertaining to road use, but then fallen short on sustaining those efforts.

For instance, some years ago the constabulary started cracking down on motorcyclists who disregard the requirement to wear helmets while operating their vehicles. Today, people operating motorbikes without protective head gear remain a common sight. They continue to flout the law, because they are not being prosecuted.

Taxi and bus drivers are seen each day creating new lanes on the streets, cutting in and out of traffic with impunity. This has continued to happen even after the launch of the PSTEB.

A major contributor to indiscipline on the roads is the absence of a culture of decency, respect for law and order, and acknowledgement of the rights of other road users.

Yet, positive change can come with consistent enforcement of the law. We saw that with the seatbelt legislation.

On Wednesday, a news release from Jamaica House said that Prime Minister Andrew Holness had met that day with senior management of the National Works Agency (NWA), the police, and China Harbour Engineering Company to discuss solutions to the current traffic challenges.

The prime minister, we are told, instructed that more must be done to inform the public of traffic changes. In addition, he wanted a more efficient management of traffic and the planned diversions.

He also told the NWA to immediately improve signage along the designated routes, due to the closure of the Portia Simpson Miller intersection.

That, we hope, will make a huge difference to the travelling public's experience because in the area of signage in particular, the NWA and China Harbour have been woefully lacking.

We expect that the coordinated effort that worked so well on the morning of September 3 will be revived and improved where necessary. Anything less would be gross disrespect to the public.

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