If we could just control the disorderliness on the roads…


If we could just control the disorderliness on the roads…

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

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All of documented history demonstrates that an orderly, rules-based society is a prerequisite for social and economic development, and yet disorder seems to be the culture of most Jamaicans.

Breaking or disregarding rules is frequently lauded in Jamaica. All social classes, regardless of education, income and position, are guilty of this to varying degrees. How often do we hear the excuse that as a people we had to break the rules to survive, or that 'man haffi eat a food'.

Anyone playing by the rules gets shafted, meaning putting themselves at a disadvantage. If you do not push and shove you might never get on a bus. More common is the lack of punctuality, which can start as early as preparatory school.

Few will dispute that a great many Jamaicans fail to appreciate that rules precede social and economic development. The habit of disobeying rules is a major cause of the very low productivity of Jamaicans working in Jamaica.

The irony, however, is that when working abroad Jamaicans obey rules and are renowned for their productivity. The difference is that in developed countries the rules are enforced. In the private sector you are fired, and, as a citizen, failure to comply with the rules brings sanctions and punishment.

What is required in Jamaica is a no-tolerance approach to disobeying rules. The application should start in a highly visible public area of Jamaican life. The regulation of how motor vehicles are operated is a good issue to start with because it affects everybody every day.

In this regard, the police need to take a much tougher approach to dangerous driving. Instead of raising revenue for minor infractions or unnecessary policing, for example, enforcing the unrealistic speed limit on the toll highway to the north coast, attention needs to be focused on the routine breaking of red lights, overtaking around corners, and overtaking an entire line of vehicles or driving down the wrong side of the road.

These regular practices transform a motor vehicle into a lethal weapon, Jamaican-style. The result is death, permanent injury and destruction of property. The chief and worse offenders are taxis, especially the unlicensed operators who function with impunity in broad daylight.

They must be taken off the road and this is easy to do. The installation of cameras at certain intersections, the stationing of plainclothes police officers at certain bus terminuses and hefty fines for motorists who have several outstanding traffic tickets will also support the effort.

Overloaded vehicles should be impounded. Manslaughter by individuals guilty of dangerous, careless and reckless driving must carry serious punishment, such as permanent loss of one's driver's licence.

It must be impressed upon those seeking a driving permit that an improperly operated motor vehicle is a lethal weapon. The new Road Traffic Act must be rigorously enforced and should be accompanied by a different approach to policing traffic offences.

The benefits of this zero-tolerance approach are enormous in terms of saving lives and property. But better yet, it can lay the foundation for a rules-based society and begin the long march to social and economic development.

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