Road laws are passed from time to time to accommodate changes in technology and to account for the myriad uses of vehicles. The Road Traffic (Amendment) Regulations, 2017 generated much discussion on their ratification late last year. Despite initial confusion and misinformation about cellphone usage and helmets for bicyclists, by and large the public is complying with expected protocol.
As we become more accustomed to the amendments, it seems timely to pause and take into account how far we have come – and how much further we can go, such as using breathalyser tests in suspected cases of alcohol use. It is now expected, for example, that omnibuses, minibuses or route taxis and private motor vehicles ten years and over are supposed to be inspected by the Licensing Authority every six months. In cases where ‘defects’ are found, owners’ permits may be suspended until those ‘defects’ are corrected, though the Act does not go into detail on what comprises those defects. Insurance companies had already established that road worthy certificates from recognised garages are to be presented for vehicles eight years and older, and one can appreciate the necessity of ensuring vehicles are in good working order for road usage. To that we would add another category of checks and balances.
In future, there needs to be greater emphasis in reducing or eliminating vehicles which release plumes of noxious emissions. This is not only a fault of the heavy duty diesel vehicles identified above, but is also found in private automobiles and private commercial vehicles. There should be consideration given to air pollution that occurs daily from these culprits. It is a daunting task to be sure, but we are of the view that the more we aim to correct these health hazards, the more inroads we can make into our overall handling of litter, pollution and ensuring a clean environment on our island. In addition to having the inspections done at the Licensing Authority, there could be a system in place so that members of the public can report into a hotline vehicles guilty of such offences.
The next matter for consideration is quite different but no less important. The law currently requires seatbelts for all passengers in a private vehicle.
Unfortunately, some persons contravene that regulation in the most dangerous of ways. In these cases, adults as passengers and drivers are properly seat-belted, but young children in back seats are unrestrained and allowed to stand in between the driver’s and passenger’s seat; or allowed to roam over the back seat at their pleasure. Not only is this practice abhorrent, it is quite baffling given that the adults have secured themselves, but have failed to ensure their young charges’ safety in similar fashion. We are aware that some children are far more content released from the constraints of seatbelts, however, their safety is more paramount than minor discomfort or dislike could ever be. It is our opinion that more public service announcements should be printed and broadcast to address this practice, and that drivers who are found with children unrestrained should be fined heavily (similarly to the fines for using a cellphone while driving) until it is stamped out.
Driving is a feature of daily life in this country, and it is one that must have regulations that change with the times, and are tweaked to ensure the safety of drivers, passengers and pedestrians. It is hoped that focusing on other aspects not currently found in our road traffic amendments can make for a better system for all.