Chairman of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding, has announced plans for amendments to the Road Traffic Act, in a bid to curtail the high incidence of traffic accidents, fatalities and other indiscretions on the island’s roads.
Making his contribution to a debate on a Motion moved by Central Kingston Member of Parliament, Ronald Thwaites, seeking amendments to the Road Traffic Act, to prescribe mandatory re-education of traffic offenders and obligatory re-certification of licencees, at 15 year intervals, Mr. Golding said the NRSC had agreed on “significant changes” to the Act.
He informed the House on February 9, that drafting instructions were issued and a new Road Traffic Act has been drafted.
The Prime Minister said that the team combing through various sections, before it is sent to Parliament’s Legislation Committee, advised him last week that, thus far, they have completed work on 97 of the 136 sections. Further, they gave him a two-week timeline within which they hope to complete their deliberations.
Some of the proposed changes, which the Prime Minister highlighted, include privatisation of motor vehicle certification regime by licensing garages across the island to execute this undertaking. This proposal, he advised, is still under study, but expressed the hope that a conclusive position will be reached on it soon.
Another proposal being pursued, Mr. Golding informed, is computerisation of the licence issuing regime to minimise, if not eliminate, the human element in the process. Lamenting that in several instances, the holders of driver’s licences are illiterate, the Prime Minister said this suggests that there are shortcomings in the existing issuing regime, which must be decisively addressed.
Other areas being looked at include: expanding the network of closed circuit surveillance cameras at critical points and enactment of legislation to curtail the use of cell phones by persons while driving.
“We are hoping to have that in Parliament, and hope that we can get it passed before Parliament prorogues at the end of March. There are some significant changes that are coming to manage the use of the roads, and to manage the use of vehicles. Once it gets here, I’m going to ask that we try to deal with it as quickly as possible, because it will certainly strengthen the hands of the policing agencies…to improve road conditions,” the Prime Minister said.
Alluding to the work of the NRSC, Mr. Golding said while they were unable to realise the objective of their 2010 ‘Save 300 Lives’ campaign, of keeping road fatalities below 300, the 317 deaths recorded was the second lowest figure within the last 25 years. Last year’s figure, he informed, was bettered only by the 295 recorded in 1999, adding that “we are making some progress."
Noting that the statistics so far this year are “encouraging,” the Prime Minister informed the House that up to February 5, some 30 road accidents were recorded, three less than the corresponding period last year, and 11 fewer than 2009. He said 23 fatalities were recorded up to February 5, compared to 33 for the same period last year, and 37 in 2009, adding that “we are pointing in the right direction."
“Some of the things that have brought this about have to do with an increased presence of traffic police on the road. In addition to that, we have been able to equip them with 50 new radar guns which have certainly improved the ability to monitor the use of the roads and to ensure that those persons who use the roads recklessly and speedily, can be brought to book,” Mr. Golding said.
Commending the work being done by the NRSC, Mr. Golding said that at his insistence, the members have increased the number of times they meet from “two or three times a year,” to every month.
“I want to place on record, our appreciation to the people who work hard, to ensure that the council functions and achieves its objectives,” the Prime Minister said.
CONTACT: DOUGLAS McINTOSH