Wednesday 1 April, 2020

House approves long-awaited Road Traffic Act

Mike Henry

Mike Henry

The country is one step closer to having a new and comprehensive Road Traffic Act with the passage of the Road Traffic Bill which was approved on Tuesday in the House of Representatives. It received unanimous bipartisan support.

The long-awaited bill, which was piloted by Transport Minister Mike Henry, was passed with 131 amendments.

Henry said efforts are being made to modernise the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) to include the automation of vehicle testing “which will, to a large extent, remove subjectivity.”

The Minister said Tax Administration Jamaica was “currently in discussions with two overseas companies which have presented proposals for a new motor vehicle system which will hopefully address issues surrounding drivers’ licences.”

And the Minister said, while the bill in its current state only makes provisions for persons who drink and drive, persons who abuse other drugs will be made to account when the appropriate tests and thresholds are determined.

The new bill represents a total repeal of the 1938 Road Traffic Act.

It will now go to the Senate for approval before being forwarded to the Governor General for his assent.

It prescribes stiff penalties for breaches and the ITA has been given broad powers, up to and including the revocation of drivers’ licences, a function that up to now is the domain of the courts. It also makes provision for new classes of drivers’ licences.

A last minute amendment that was recommended by Opposition Member of Parliament Mikail Phillips, and which was accepted, will see drivers who fail to provide a restraint for a child being fined $5,000 instead of $2,000. 

In closing the debate on Tuesday, Henry noted that members of both sides of the House had given their support to the bill. He described the responses to the bill as positive.

The Bill was initially tabled on September 9, 2016.

The Objects and Memorandum of the Bill note that, since the promulgation of the 1938 legislation, there has been “phenomenal development in the design of motor vehicles and roads.”

It said the new Act is in keeping with international best practices for road safety, adopted for local conditions.

Among other things it will broaden the role of the Road Traffic Appeal Tribunal; allow for the reclassification of motor vehicles; attach conditions to the grant of permits and drivers’ licences; and makes provisions for the transportation of dangerous and hazardous substances.

The Transport Minister has repeatedly said the new Road Traffic Act will help to address some of the carnage on the nation’s roads which see more than 300 people being killed each year.

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