Jamaica Observer / It was long in coming, but finally legislators in the Lower House passed the new Road Traffic Bill this week which, we expect, will also receive approval from Senators today. Significantly, the new Bill proposes heavy penalties for a number of breaches that are committed almost daily by motorists, particularly taxi, bus, and motorcycle drivers.
We would not be surprised to hear some people whining about the fines. Our advice to them would be to obey the law and avoid the sanctions, because what now obtains on our roads cannot be allowed to continue.
As we said, the breaches — some of which are extremely reckless — occur daily. It is not unusual to see taxi and Coaster bus drivers in particular creating new lanes, including on sidewalks, to avoid traffic, or changing lanes without signalling in their mad race for passengers.
Add to that the many instances in which some of these unruly drivers are found to have outstanding traffic tickets and you get a picture of the disorder and lack of regard for the law among these people who are operating lethal machines.
Readers will recall that just last month, after a fatal two-vehicle crash on Old Harbour Road in St Catherine, it emerged that the two drivers had a combined total of 62 outstanding traffic tickets.
One of the drivers, whose road licence was just a year old, accounted for 12 of the outstanding tickets, while the other accounted for the remaining 50 over a six-year period.
The Road Safety Unit also reported that the motor cars were not licensed to operate as public passenger vehicles and that speeding and faulty overtaking were the major factors that contributed to the crash.
Last year there were a reported 320 road deaths, the majority of them caused by excessive speeding, disobeying traffic signs or signals, swerving, failure to keep left, and tailgating, the Road Safety Unit has told us.
The unit also reported on Wednesday this week that since the start of this year 32 people had died on the nation’s roads up to that time.
The toll that these road crashes have on the families of people who die and who are injured is immense. Recovery sometimes take years and, in the worst cases, the emotional trauma and physical damage is permanent. In addition, these tragedies place great strain on the country’s health system.
Indeed, we recall a study released last year showing that in 2014 the estimated direct medical cost for road traffic crashes was $1.4 billion, while the indirect productivity cost was $1.8 billion, bringing the total direct and indirect medical cost of road traffic crashes to $3.2 billion.
While we accept that this new Bill will not prevent road crashes, we believe that the provisions should serve to discourage some of the behaviour evident on the roads daily. But that, we maintain, is dependent on the law being enforced without fear or favour, because a large contributor to the irresponsible actions of many motorists is the culture of corruption in the constabulary and Transport Authority under which a “bligh” for breaches is rewarded with cash.
The question now is who will monitor those who are responsible for policing the roads? It can’t be beyond this country to find decent and honest individuals to ensure that laws are obeyed