Letters to the Editor

New Road Traffic Act and 'scandal' ban will force us forward

Thursday, January 03, 2019

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Dear Editor,

After reading newspaper articles online I always take a moment to browse through some of the comments made by other readers. Of course, the perspectives vary based on each contributor and his or her level of engagement with the contents of these articles.

It takes little effort to evaluate the types of comments made. Some individuals are highly critical, some politicise everything, while others are just simply ignorant of the information being shared. I have also noticed fierce verbal attacks whenever Jamaicans in the Diaspora weigh in on certain topical issues. There is often this attitude that Jamaica should not be compared to anywhere else, and that Jamaicans abroad should focus on the affairs of the country in which they currently reside. However, Jamaicans abroad have a broader perspective on many things, having been exposed to other systems, mentalities and cultures. This leads me to address two recent develops in our country:

1. The new Road Traffic Act that was passed

2. The ban on single-use plastic bags which took effect on January 1.

There was great uproar, especially among taxi drivers, over the increased fines that accompany this new traffic act. Many argued that it is just another measure from the Government to earn revenue. Senator Kamina Johnson Smith hastened to dismiss such belief, stating that it is due to the culture of indiscipline and bad driving why some of these amendments were made. We continue to see where irresponsible driving has led to many fatalities; still, driving habits have not changed that much. It bemuses me, however, that the Government has to establish laws of this kind for citizens to take safety measures regarding their own lives. It reminds me of another bad practice that we have — fastening our seat belts when we hear that “police deh roun di corna”.

In more civilised societies, one of the first things you do upon entering a taxi or a personal vehicle is to fasten your seat belt. This practice is so engraved in social behaviour that there is no need for the driver to remind passengers to do this act. People also drive with care and they respect the road code. Two other things to note are that: (i) taxi drivers take pride in their vehicles and their passengers. Taxis are clean and fully functional, unlike some of the ramshackle ones that we travel in on a daily basis on the Papine to Half-Way-Tree route, which cannot even shield us from the blazing sun. We can imagine what happens on a rainy day. (ii) Both drivers and passengers form a queue in the taxi park. Everyone awaits his turn, and there is no overload of vehicle. This is opposite to the usual chaotic scene witnessed in the early mornings and evenings at taxi parks.

There are those who will argue that passengers have options in terms of transportation, but the reality is that a lot of us cannot escape this route. I think that we are equally responsible for the type of treatment that we endure from some of these taxi drivers, and we must demand some amount of professionalism from them to make the transportation system civilised.

The proscription of single-use plastic bags has also sparked much discussion, with even a request to postpone its implementation. It would seem that, after several revelations about the detrimental effects of plastic on the environment and marine life, people still have not yet acknowledged the gravity of the situation. Many companies have also expressed their state of unreadiness; some even expressed concerns about the loss of jobs. However, any forward-thinking company should have already had strategic plans in place to address this development whenever it came. The ban itself is an opportunity for the innovative mind to conceive ideas on how start a business in this area.

Supermarkets must remove those black scandals and replace them with environmentally-friendly bags. We, the consumers, have to be more responsible and know that each time we are going to make a purchase that requires the use of bag, we take one with us. In fact, in some countries plastic bags are not automatically given with a purchase. Citizens are, therefore, forced to travel with their own bag or buy another one whenever they go to the supermarket, for example.

While we seek to eradicate these plastic bags, we must simultaneously develop further initiatives like 'Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica', and continue to place great emphasis on recycling and reusing.

We must get the people conscious of the importance of saving the environment, which really means saving our future and that of the generations to come. Our mentality as a people must evolve, and we must continue the fight to transform our social behaviour. Constant education is inevitable.

Oneil Madden


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