Passing of Road Traffic Act Regulations must be prioritized, says Private Sector Organization of Jamaica

The Jamaican Government has found itself in an embarrassing situation this week – over traffic tickets. A Supreme Court injunction on Wednesday may severely impact government finances, unless Parliament does something quickly; so last night it convened a special sitting, which is continuing today (although, true to form for our House of Representatives, it started late this morning). It is now facing a refund bill of billions unless it passes some urgent legislation.

The situation regarding the Road Traffic Act, passed by Parliament over three years ago, is truly shameful and a sign of true incompetence. The regulations that will bring the legislation into force are still not complete. There have been numerous media reports, interviews, cajolings, and hand-wringing over the matter – to no avail. It is not fair on anyone seeking to implement a more orderly and fair regime on our roads. God knows, it is badly needed. We see the chaos and indiscipline on a daily basis, and the number of deaths and injuries on our roads continues unabated. Just take a look at the Mona GeoInformatics Institute (Mona GIS) website, which faithfully tracks crashes (and the causes thereof) on a continuous basis across the island and analyzes the data. Mona GIS also tracks natural hazards and other critical areas of Jamaican life, and the website is well worth a browse through.

There have been numerous webinars, meetings and online discussion on road safety in Jamaica over the past few years, and some grand speeches made by the Prime Minister (who chairs the National Road Safety Council) and others – Jamaican advocates and overseas experts. The will seems to be there, but…it seems to me that at least one Government agency has dropped the ball on this one. Just get on with it and get the regulations passed. No excuses, just get it done. Government is moving at snail’s pace.

A member of the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch (PSTEB) of the Jamaica Constabulary Force trying to sort out traffic congestion. PSTEB was formed in September, 2018. (Photo: Mark Bell/JIS)

I have been thinking for some time that road safety is, perhaps, way down on our list of priorities – since long before COVID. I hope I am wrong. Here are the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica‘s (PSOJ) comments – and I fully understand their impatience:

Passing of Road Traffic Act Regulations must be prioritized

Kingston, Jamaica – 05 November 2021: The recent Supreme Court ruling granting an injunction blocking law enforcers from issuing traffic tickets in excess of fines up to 2006 rates has spotlighted another unacceptable lapse in completion of duty by the Government. The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) is again calling for the completion and approval of the regulations related to the Road Traffic Act to be done as an urgent priority.

In August 2018, the new Road Traffic Act was approved by the Lower and Upper House and to date has not been enabled because of a failure to provide and approve the regulations to the Act which contains the new fines. This failure has resulted in and may facilitate inconsequential penalties for indiscipline on our roadways and further frustrate the efforts of the law enforcement to bring a sense of law and order to our roadways.

The PSOJ in recognizing the connection between lawlessness and the breakdown in public order established a Monitoring Committee as a part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2020 between the PSOJ and the Ministry of National Security. The Monitoring Committee provides oversight to ensure that the Government is focused on the timelines that it has set out for the completion of certain tasks to execute and improve the Traffic Ticket Management System, the JamaicaEye, Regulations to the Noise Abatement Act and motorcycle driving simulators in Western Jamaica for the improvement of public order and road safety.

Despite the PSOJ writing to the Ministry of Transport and Mining and formally requesting the inclusion of the enabling of the Road Traffic Act as a monitored process within the MOU, to date no response has been forthcoming.

We made the request as we recognized that the various targets by the Road Safety Council chaired by Prime Minister Andrew Holness have been frustrated by the failure to conclude the regulations and have them passed in the Houses of Parliament.The Government must send a strong signal to the people of Jamaica that it is serious about governance and establishing systems to protect the lives of every Jamaican. The completion of the regulations must be given very high priority.

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