Expect more corruption

Motorists say cops will benefit as road users try to avoid high fines of new traffic Bill

BY DEANDRA MORRISON
Online reporter
morrisond@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 12, 2018



SOME motorists believe that the heavy fines and other penalties under the new Road Traffic Bill that was last week approved by the House of Representatives will only result in more police corruption, even as it is being touted by Government as giving police “full control of the roadway”.

The Road Traffic Bill, 2016, will replace the current Road Traffic Act of 1938, and it is anticipated that it will allow for effective policing to reduce road fatalities, limit speeding, control loud noises and heavy tinting, as well as the use of cellphones, earphones and other communication devices while driving.

It will establish new offences as well as provide increased penalties for activities like driving without required motor vehicle insurance coverage ($20,000); driving without a licence or permit ($40,000); driving a motor vehicle without a permit entitling the driver to use the vehicle ($30,000); exceeding speed limits ($6,000 - $15,000); loud noises and failure to wear protective helmet ($5,000); failure to comply with traffic signs ($10,000); and failure to stop at pedestrian crossings ($12,000).

“With this new Road Traffic Act, I think the Government will have to invest in a new prison,” said taxi operator Andre Hepburn, who operates from Half-Way-Tree to Mannings Hill Road via Red Hills Road. “The increased fines are going to aid the corruption problem in the Jamaica Constabulary Force and make corruption even a bigger monster to fight.”

“Motorists are now going to be quicker to 'let go a money' to give the police officers, rather than to deal with the long lines at the tax office to pay a lot of money. No one is going to want to put $15,000 to $30,000 on tax office counter when they have children to feed and send to school, the taxi operator of 10 years insisted yesterday.

Hepburn also pointed out that motorists sometimes breach the road code because the country's roads, which are in need of repair, are not “conducive to good driving”.

Another motorist, Wayne Bryan, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that “police [officers] would be the only ones to make money from the increased fines”.

“The way things are set up, if you're driving to the country, you have to put down at least a $10,000 to give the police when they stop you,” he said.

However, pedestrian Joan Shirley shared a different view. She told the Jamaica Observer that if motorists do not have the money to pay the heavy fines, they should obey the road code.

“If they had been doing the right thing all along, it would not have reached to this stage,” Shirley said.

According to Minister of Transport Mike Henry, the Bill is also aimed at reducing injuries and contributing to economic growth and development.

Shirley also thinks the number of road fatalities due to crashes needs to decrease.

“The bloodshed on the roads need to stop. If this is what they have to do to accomplish that, then so be it,” she said.

Meanwhile, motorist Alton Esmie said the new road code could make a difference.

“I think it might make a difference to the average person, so persons like me would make an effort not to break the law,” he told the Observer, adding that it might not make a big difference to more aggressive road users like taxi and bus drivers.

Esmie also pointed out that some parts of the Bill are not justifiable, highlighting the increased fines were not fair to law-abiding motorists.

“Better systems need to be in place to track people who have amassed a certain amount of tickets, so they can come off the road,” he said.

Another motorist, who gave her name only as Miss Chin, said that some parts of the Bill are “okay”; however, she added.

“Who they want to catch they won't catch,” she said.

“Some atrocious things happen on our roads and most times it's not law-abiding citizens who do them. These taxi men and bus men get away with it because the vehicles they drive are owned by persons who are in high places and can override the law,” Miss Chin alleged.

A taxi driver, who gave his name as Courtney or “Docta”, said he thought the fine for use of an electronic device while driving was too high.

“I think it should be lower because sometimes, in an emergency, you have to pick up your phone. Also, as a taxi driver, I need to be in contact with my passengers because I can miss 'a work' at any time,“ he said.

The Bill stipulates that the use of electronic communication devices while driving could incur a penalty of $10,000 payable to the collector of taxes or a fine of $30,000 or 10 days in prison if not paid.

“I don't know how it going to go, because the police are corrupt, they will stop you for nothing and only because they want a money from you. And if you don't have it, they're going to give you a ticket that is not justified,” he added.

The Bill will next go to the Senate, where it is expected that it will receive the same level of support it did in the House of Representatives.

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