Monday 20 May, 2019

Vehicle owners to be liable for breaches of others behind the wheel

File photo

File photo

Owners of motor vehicles are being warned that they will be held liable for traffic breaches even if they are not the ones driving their vehicle at the time of traffic breach.

The move to make owners liable is one of five new amendments to the new Road Traffic Act that were debated and passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

According to the Bill that was tabled by Transport Minister, Robert Montague, tickets and fines shall apply to the owner of the vehicle as if the owner was driving the vehicle when the breach was committed. However, the owners will not be hit with demerit points as a result of the breaches.

The move was welcomed by Attorney General, Marlene Malahoo-Forte, who said “It is my firm belief that these amendments will go a long way in helping to restore order on our streets and in helping to ensure that persons who use motor vehicles understand that they must exercise utmost care.

“Owners of motor vehicles must understand that they become liable for the use of their motor vehicles. No longer are offences limited to persons who drive the motor vehicles, but the owners themselves will be liable… This is the modern era of electronic surveillance, and persons have to understand that greater care is required…,” the attorney general added.

Dr Morais Guy

In his contribution, Member of Parliament (MP) for St Mary Central, Morais Guy, said there is a need to roll out more surveillance cameras at intersections and stoplights. He said the way to rein in unruly drivers is to make them feel it in their pockets.

Guy singled out taxi operators as the “main offenders” on the roads. He welcomed the provision in the Bill that will see vehicle owners being sanctioned, as, according to him, “These taxis are not being driven by the owners, but any driver who comes along and presents his driver’s licence to him and he wants a job, he will get the job.

“I’m pleased that this particular amendment is seeking to tackle and to connect the owner through the licence plate by electronic surveillance to the driver, so that the owner can be ticketed,” Guy added.

In his contribution to the debate, Health Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, pointed to the public health situation and noted the “astronomical cost” associated with motor vehicle crashes.

He pointed to research done by a trauma specialist, which showed the cost to care for one individual at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), with the individual having not been wearing a helmet at the time of an accident, at more than $17 million “over a period of time”.

The minister said had the victim been wearing a helmet, the “cost would be nowhere near that”.

Tufton said there was therefore the need to ensure that enforcement takes place under the new legislation.

Whereas the version of the Bill that was passed in the House in February and the Senate in May had proposed fines of up to $10,000 for persons found driving without a driver’s licence, the amended Bill now allows drivers to provide some other form of identification in lieu of the licence.

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