His announcement comes against the background that the state has been unable to collect about $800 million in traffic fines, with one motorist alone accounting for 1,500 tickets and three others with more than 1,000.
“We have set up cameras at traffic lights in unnamed areas,” the Minister disclosed at the opening of the Grennell’s Driving School’s, second annual Jamaica Driver and Traffic Safety Expo held at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre on Saturday (June 19). “We are moving into the modern age of vehicle recognition, so we can monitor traffic activity more closely.”
Using information captured by the cameras recently, the government was able to cross- match the license plates numbers of motorists with tickets issued by the police, explains Executive Director of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), Mrs. Paula Fletcher. The information showed that a number of the motorists caught on camera had multiple traffic offences.
Minister of Transport and Works, the Hon. Mike Henry, says a surveillance system, now in place, will, in addition to monitoring traffic flow, eventually be able to net motorists who breach the Road Traffic Act.
“There is one individual with 1,500 tickets!” she exclaimed. “We have been pursuing this and we want to speak to the Commissioner because we would like a special exercise to nab these persons.” There is a plan in place for Ministry of Transport and Works and the Ministry of National Security and Justice to collaborate and formulate a policy and legislative framework to establish a broader surveillance mechanism to support the ticketing system, she added.
Mrs. Fletcher said the current ticketing system has not been working, because it does not have a back-office database, which links the relevant Government departments; however, she pointed out that a new system is being pursued to establish those linkages.
“What you need is a system which links the Police Traffic Division, which issues tickets, and the Inland Revenue Department. The system will also establish a link between the courts and the Island Traffic Authority (IRA), which has the right to take away your license once you exceed a certain amount of points,” she explained. “The connected database will have the necessary matching and querying functions in place so that when a motorist does not attend court on the specified date or pay the ticket amount within the stipulated time frame, the system puts up a red flag.”
In addition to overhauling the ticketing system, Mrs. Fletcher stated that a new Road Traffic Act has been drafted. The draft Act, which is advanced, is to be taken to cabinet by Minister Henry before it goes to parliament. Among the proposals being considered is a move to restrict the use of mobile phones when driving, as well as a proposal to seize uninsured motor vehicles.
A new licensing system is also to be introduced through the IRA under the amended Act. Minister Henry says the new system will require people to know the road code before they can apply for a learner’s permit. The law will also introduce a six month period within which one can be allowed to sit a driver examination after receiving a learner’s permit.
“Once the person is successful in the driver examination, a provisional license will be granted for the period of one year,” he said. The license will limit the hours these motorists can drive and restrict their use of highways. “And, there will be zero tolerance for alcohol use,” he said.
Earl Jarrett, General Manager of the Jamaica National Building Society and Chairman of the Jamaica Automobile Association, who was patron of the Expo on the weekend, said better driving skills and better driving behaviour will help to further reduce road crashes and consequently death. He noted that fatalities this year, resulting from crashes, have reduced by 30 percent so far when compared to the same period last year, although the numbers remain high.
“Much of our country’s intellectual and economic resources are lost each day to death on our roads,” Mr. Jarrett said. “Therefore road safety is, without a doubt, one of the most critical areas that we must address.”