Time to distinguish road hogs

VICE-chairman of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) Dr Lucien Jones says motorists posing the most danger on the country’s roads should be pinpointed through the red-flagging of traffic tickets which attract driver’s licence demerit points.

The country recorded 358 deaths from 311 motor vehicle collisions up to October 17.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer on Monday, the road safety management policy expert explained that one of the major problems facing the ticketing system is that motorists could have hundreds of outstanding tickets but end up being brought to book for only a couple, due to the backlog in the courts.

“If those tickets which trigger the warrants only result in a fine vis a vis those tickets for offences which trigger the attachment of demerit points on the drivers licence then we will not get the kind of behaviour change which attend the suspension of the offender’s driver’s licence,” he said.

“So in addition to dealing with the warrants being issued and dealing with the backlog, the system needs — in my view and also shared by the commissioner with whom we met recently — to red-flag those tickets that attract demerit points,” he reasoned.

Among the offences which attract demerit points are: driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs; driving alongside of, overlapping or overtaking other traffic proceeding in the same direction, and if by so doing the vehicle obstructs any traffic proceeding it in the opposite direction.

Dr Jones said National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has just advised that the new electronic ticketing system, successfully piloted in the Kingston and St Andrew region, is to be rolled out across the island.

“That will remove a lot of the errors which used to bedevil the system and give the judges pause in deciding to sign warrants, in case they were signing warrants for people who had already paid the fine but was not captured by a faulty system,” he stated.

The vice-chairman noted also that the ability to detect and enforce average speed over distance similarly awaits the full roll-out of the new Road Traffic Act. “We can place one camera anywhere — for example at the first toll booth on the highway and another at the second one — and if you arrive earlier than the average speed that the speed limit allows you are automatically ticketed. Or we could place one at point A on the elegant corridor, where so many crashes take place, and another at point B and the same principle would apply and a ticket issued electronically,” he explained.

Dr Jones said while the country focuses on the murder rate, there is a similar ill in the form of crashes and road deaths which needs to be viewed as just as troubling: “The entire society needs to rise up and realise that it’s not just crime and violence — people are dying on our roads.”

He pointed to the horrific death of a male motorist in Trelawny last Wednesday: “What I can’t get out of my mind is what happened in Trelawny on Wednesday night when the driver of a Mark X reportedly got out of control and ran into a big, heavy truck and died. I can’t get out of my mind the kind of horror and terror that this young man would have felt when he realised that he was going to hit the truck. I pray God that he called on Jesus. We really need to rescue our people from this kind of horrible death.”

Dr Jones said the passage of the new Road Traffic Act is only a means to an end — and the end game is to ensure public order; reduce speed; enforce the wearing of protective devices; and encourage the practice of driving without being distracted by electronic devices and/or being under the influence of mind-altering substances.

He said the electronic ticketing system is still awaiting the signing of contracts for implementation. Its enactment is also dependent on how quickly the provisions of the new legislation, now under review by the ministry, can be approved.

Dr Jones stressed that the NRSC is continuing its work of requesting funds to restart its motorcycle training programme; shoring up the capacity to execute an action plan; and rolling out a comprehensive public education campaign, in conjunction with the police, to enforce the speed laws.

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