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Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, says that the new road traffic legislation will provide harsh penalties for breaches of specified road safety rules.

The amended Act will ensure that road safety issues are addressed according to 21st century requirements. It will, among other things, deal with the use of mobile phones while driving, and also cover the use of in-car devices such as DVD players.

While not stating the penalties, Dr. Guy said that these will be outlined in the Act, preparation of which is at an advanced stage and should be brought to Parliament during this fiscal year.

The Minister, who was addressing the National Road Safety Council’s (NRSC) poster competition awards ceremony held on Thursday, July 11, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston, expressed particular concern about the use of cellular phones while driving, noting that this is “a serious hazard”.

He said that cellular phone use creates some amount of distraction for drivers, which may cause crashes resulting in injuries and fatalities.

“The Ministry is guided by the notion that all road users must be safely accommodated on the roads (and) that’s one of the reasons we are excited about putting a new Road Traffic Act in place. Once adopted, it will greatly enhance public safety as it will comprise many more road safety components than the current Act,” Dr. Guy stated.

He noted also that the modernisation and re-organisation of the Island Traffic Authority will be fast tracked when the new Road Traffic Act is passed into law.

The new Act will also call for the certification of driving instructors and require that they teach an approved curriculum and bring in the Graduated Driver’s Licensing System.

Dr. Guy stated that Jamaica’s development will be found woefully wanting if the country’s road safety practises are not intensified.

“Our limited health resources are negatively impacted each year as the country spends some $2 billion each year to care for victims of traffic crashes,” he stated.

He noted further that the insurance industry suffers losses of some $8 billion annually as a result of crashes, adding that there are also immeasurable losses to the workforce, production, the income and emotional wellbeing of families, as well as damage to property owing to trauma triggered by crashes.

“Every life lost on the nation’s roads presents a socio-economic loss to our nation and our communities. Every injury on our road is a loss to our workforce, our economy and our communities. How do we stop this haemorrhaging of our country and our economy? Each of us must play a bold and decisive and responsible role in road safety,” Dr. Guy stated.

Contact: Chris Patterson