Sunday 12 July, 2020

Amid protest, Senate puts off debating Road Traffic Act amendments

Amid ongoing protests by some operators of public passenger vehicles (PPV) who are opposed to some provisions of the new Road Traffic Act, the Senate on Friday put off debate on a handful of amendments to the legislation that were passed by the House of Representatives on November 13.

This means that the long-awaited legislation that will repeal and replace the 80-year old Road Traffic Act, has been further delayed.

After tabling the amended Bill in the Senate on Friday morning, Senator Ruel Reid told the Upper House that it would be debated at a later date. He said the delay would allow for more public education and consultation on the six amendments that were recently approved by the House.

Among the amendments is one that has drawn the ire of taxi operators. The now aggrieved amendment allows for the ticketing of motor vehicle owners whether or not the owners themselves were behind the respective wheels when traffic breaches took place involving the units, which are captured by electronic devices, such as surveillance cameras.

While taxi operators have blocked roads in sections of the country over several days this week mostly in objection to the provision, the authorities have been at pains to point out that all vehicle owners will be subjected to the provision, hence the cabbies are not being unfairly targeted.

In some countries, including the United States, vehicle owners receive tickets in the mail when their vehicle is electronically captured involved in a breach. With the electronic devices only identifying the vehicles that involved, only the documented owners can be pursued, and not any other individuals who may have been actually driving the vehicles. The same principle is behind the new provision of the Road Traffic Act that is being resisted by the taxi operators.

And while legislators anticipate that the new Road Traffic Act with its hefty fines for some traffic breaches will help to reduce the carnage on the nation’s roads, Senator Reid did not indicate when the new provisions will be debated in the Upper House.

Overhaul of the legislation started with the previous People’s National Party (PNP) Government. It was passed in the House in February of this year with 161 amendments, and in the Senate in May, with a further 131 amendments.

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