Debate on the Road Traffic Act was postponed in the Senate on Friday (November 23) to allow for public education and consultation with stakeholders.
Education, Youth and Information Minister, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, who moved for the delay, said: “I beg to give notice that further amendments to the Bill shortly, entitled the Road Traffic Act 2018 be considered and approved at a later date.” Speaking to JIS News following the sitting, Senator Reid explained that the decision was based on concerns expressed by taxi operators and their respective associations.
Among them is the provision for motor-vehicle owners to be ticketed for breaches by drivers of their vehicles.
“As a Government that is clearly responsive to stakeholders who have concerns, we are prepared to bring those issues to the table. I think a lot of the issues that seem to have been brought up in the public sphere were misinformation, and I think persons were not as informed as to what the Road Traffic Act is seeking to do,” he explained.
Passed in the House of Representatives on November 13 with six amendments, the Road Traffic Act 2018 replaces its 80-year-old predecessor, which was enacted in 1938.
The Bill was first proposed in 2014 and was then placed before a joint select committee of Parliament for review.
It establishes new offences as well as provides increased penalties for road traffic breaches. It also includes features such as a restriction on handheld devices and a requirement for drivers to have their licence always in their possession while operating a vehicle.
Senate President, Hon. Tom Tavares-Finson said he has had dialogue with the heads of some taxi associations who were present ahead of the start of the Senate, and assured them of his willingness to listen.
For his part, President of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO), Louis Barton, urged taxi operators, who have withdrawn service in protest, to return to work.
“Do not cause disruptions on the road. Do not do anything that is illegal. We’re trying to reform (and) improve the transportation sector,” he said.