- Since the promulgation of the Road Traffic Act and Regulations 1938, there have been phenomenal developments in the design of motor vehicles thus rendering various descriptions and requirements contained in the legislation obsolete.
- In its present form the Act runs counter to current trends and developments in the automobile industry.
- Issues surrounding the inadequacy of penalties and fines, as well as road worthiness testing methods have evolved over time.
OVERVIEW OF The Road Traffic Bill 2015
Mr. Speaker, the current Road Traffic Legislation was enacted in 1938. Since the promulgation of the Road Traffic Act and Regulations 1938, there have been phenomenal developments in the design of motor vehicles thus rendering various descriptions and requirements contained in the legislation obsolete. Additionally, in its present form the Act runs counter to current trends and developments in the automobile industry. Many internationally accepted structures and accessories that conform to standards under the Vienna Convention are rendered illegal by the current laws.
Issues surrounding the inadequacy of penalties and fines, as well as road worthiness testing methods have evolved over time. Similarly, measurement limits in relation to weights and distances need to be amended to be in line with the metric system now in use in Jamaica in the mid-1990s. Concerns regarding the inadequacies / deficiencies of the Road Traffic Legislation have been raised by several Ministries, Agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, Service groups and concerned citizens.
By way of Decision No.27/99 dated September 6, 1999, Cabinet approved the Ministry’s proposal to overhaul the Road Traffic Act and Regulations (1938) and the issuing of drafting instructions to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel to prepare the necessary legislation.
The attached Bill from the Chief Parliamentary Council is the last of many drafts, intense stakeholder deliberations, two Legislation Committee reviews and finally the revision of the Joint Select Committee. The Bill was widely circulated throughout the MDAs other stakeholders, including the Insurance Association of Jamaica, Jamaica Automobile Associations, and the Combined Disabilities Associations. Their comments have been incorporated in the Bill.
The Attorney General’s Chambers and the Legal Reform Department both advised that they have no objection regarding the constitutionality of the provisions and that Bill it is legally constituted.
Mr. Speaker, the matter for debate is A Bill entitled: “An Act to Repeal and Replace the Road Traffic Act of 1938, which was presented to this House in the Sectorial Debate in June 2014. Thereafter, a joint Select Committee which was established commenced it review of the Bill in September 2014
STRUCTURE of the ROAD TRAFFIC Bill 2014
The Bill is comprised of thirteen (13) Parts inclusive of a General Section where the Minister may make regulations, and one hundred and thirty-four (134) Clauses plus the attendant six Schedules.
SIGNIFICANT FEATURES OF THE ROAD TRAFFIC BILL 2014
The Road Traffic Bill seeks to repeal and replace the Road Traffic Act of 1938. It includes new information, amended provisions as well as increased fines for traffic offences. Provisions relating to public passenger operations (Sections 60 – 89) were removed to the existing Transport Authority Act to have this information under one Act. Mr. Speaker, the Transport Authority has responsibility for these categories of motor vehicles.
Mr. Speaker, the Bill seeks to, among other things, to:
- Ø empower the Island Traffic Authority which has portfolio responsibilities for the regulation and control of traffic on roads;
- Ø empower the Island Traffic Authority to issue suspension notices where maximum points have been accumulated against a driver’s licence; and this is a new provision Mr. Speaker.
- Ø create new categories of drivers’ licences –
- Class A for motor cycle drivers,
- Class B drivers licence which entitles the holder to drive not for reward, trucks, motor cars, (not being public passenger motor vehicle, or commercial motor vehicles) and vehicles specially modified for persons with a disability.
- Class C drivers licence for holders to drive whether for reward or otherwise such category of motor vehicles as may be prescribed and specified in the licence – reserved for commercial vehicles;
- Ø provide for persons to, at all times while operating a motor vehicle, have their driver’s licence in their possession;
- Ø reclassify motor vehicles and connected matters – ;
- Ø remove fines and penalties from the body of the Act to Schedules – Fifth Schedule for fixed penalties, and the Sixth Schedule for matters to be heard by the Courts;
- increase fines and penalties – to act as a deterrent to flagrant committing of traffic offences by motorists as well as to cover the cost to the Court and to act as a tool to modify driver behaviour on the nation’s roads.
- Ø remove public passenger information from the Road Traffic Act to the Transport Authority Act – which has regulatory and monitoring responsibilities for this category of operators;
- Ø Use of electronic communication devices while driving – a person shall not drive or operate a motor vehicle on a road while using an electronic device whether by holding in one hand or both hands or with any other part of the body – Section 125. Persons driving emergency vehicles are exempted.
Significantly though, most of the details of the provisions in the Bill are set out in the Model Regulations which is deliberate to make it easier for amendments to be done as soon as these become necessary. For example:
- Ø the transport / manufacturing industry dictates the need for some such amendments, especially where new technologies change vehicle information;
- Ø the need for new or updated standard operating procedures and processes by the Authority, policy change or other requirements from other MDAs;
Information is now organized by subject area, with all the fines, penalties and tax duties set out in the Schedules to the Bill.
Fines and penalties which are set out in the body of the current Road Traffic Act, (1938) are now set out in the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Bill.
SUMMARY OF THE REPORT OF THE JOINT SELECT COMMITTEE
Mr. Speaker, the Road Traffic Bill 2014 was reviewed by the Joint Select Committee during the period September 9, 2014 to February 11, 2015.
Let me express my sincere gratitude to the Committee and to all those individuals and organizations that made written submissions and oral presentations or participated in the deliberations.
Special thanks is also extended to the Policy, Technical and Legal support staff from the Ministry of Transport Works and Housing, its Agencies and Departments; the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Council, the Ministry of National Security, Members of the Jamaica Constable Force (particularly the Traffic Department), the Tax Administration of Jamaica, the Attorney General’s Chambers, the Legal Reform Department and the Ministry of Health.
Deliberations were vibrant and focused on the safety of all road users. As such, the recommendations for amendments to the Road Traffic Bill were highlighted, with an overall focus on a public education component where the road user falls within the vulnerable groups.
MAJOR FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Mr. Speaker, I now wish to present some of the major findings and recommendations for amendments from the Committee.
Preliminary – The definitions were accepted with few changes, such as definition of a “child”, to a more acceptable one, based on the research of the Legal Reform Department. The definition of child states that: “child includes any person whose age, size, height or built such that the person experiences or is likely to experience problems or difficulty with the prescribed upper anchorage point of a seat belt”.
It was the considered opinion of the Committee that “age and size” should not be included in the definition as there are “small persons” (adults) who cannot be described as a child.
1. Clause 3 – Establishment of the Island Traffic Authority – The Committee recommended a redraft of this clause.
The Island Traffic Authority is redefined as an Agency of Government and shall consist of five members, comprising –
(a) three (3) members to be appointed by the Minister, one of whom shall be the chairman;
(b) the Chief Executive Officer of the National Works Agency or his nominee; and
(c) the Commissioner of Police or his nominee.
2. Clause 21 – Restriction on driving without a permit or driver’s licence and production of driver’s licence on demand – This is a requirement for the driver to have his permit or driver’s licence on his person while driving. The Committee took the decision to remove the 48 hours grace period.
3. Clause 55 – Sidewalks – The Committee recommended that this clause be amended to include reference to the provision of cycle lanes/facilities and pedestrian refuges, as well as, sidewalks, as the protection of those categories of road users is important.
4. Clause 100 – Damage to roads – The Committee supported the recommendation that damage to roads should remain as a criminal offence, but there could also be a provision that allowed the agency that would have to repair the road, to be able to claim as a civil debt any repairs that they would need to carry out.
Further, for offences causing damage to the road both the driver as well as the owner would be charged as the driver would be at the point where the offence was committed.
5. Clause 102 – Demerit Points on Conviction of Certain Offences – It was found that the ITA had problems with receiving Court Orders relating to demerit points that should have been sent to them by the Courts. The information is not received in a timely fashion and only on receipt can the ITA take the necessary action. The Committee felt that timely exchange of information was necessary and it was also necessary to strengthen the coordination between the different institutions.
6. Clause 106 – Operating motor vehicle in excess of prescribed maximum laden weight – The Committee recommended that the first two (2) levels of overloading offence which are:
- less than 500 kg, and
- 500 – 1000 kg
should be ticketed and fines paid at the tax office and be included as offences in the Fifth Schedule of the Bill.
The Committee also agreed that where mention was made of an owner and an operator the penalty should apply to both.
7. GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS – other recommendations for amendments are as set out in the Report.
Mr. Speaker, I now present to the Honourable House the Report of the Joint Select Committee for debate and acceptance; and the Road Traffic Bill for debate by Parliament.