On Tuesday August 4 the STAR received an email from police press relations officer Zachary Hippolyte. The subject; Amendments to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act. It read: “The public is hereby advised of the following amendments made to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act 2008, Section 85, Failing to Produce a Driver’s Licence, Permit or other Driver’s Identification and Registration Document.
The amended Act is then stated:
“(1) On every occasion when a person drives a motor vehicle or trailer, that person shall have possession of his or her valid driver’s licence, permit or other driver’s identification document and the registration document in relation to the motor vehicle or trailer.
(2) A traffic officer may stop and request a driver to produce his or her licence, permit or other driver’s identification document, the certificate of registration or other registration document issued under this Act or the applicable law in relation to a motor vehicle or trailer being driven.
(3) Where a request is made under subsection (2), the driver to whom the request is made shall produce immediately for examination by the traffic officer –
(a) His or her driver’s licence, permit or other driver’s identification document; and
(b) The certificate of registration or other registration documents, which must include the certificate of insurance or such evidence as may be prescribed in relation to the use of the motor vehicle.”
Then the email details the penalty:
“A person who contravenes subsection (3) commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or both.”
Wrote the police press officer: “Therefore, please be advised that the period of 48 hours to produce documents under Section 85 is no longer applicable.”
There was instant reaction to the amendment by members of the public, many in opposition. The former national security minister also joined the debate on Monday. Guy Mayers called on citizens to protest the new regulations adding that it would further strain the relations between citizens and police.
The former minister for transport has also had his say. According to Guy Joseph, the licence office had run out of material to produce the licences so that it takes people more than a week to get their driver’s licence. “So what happens if my licence has been paid but I have not been issued the relevant documents?” asked Joseph who describes the measure as unfair.
On Tuesday Silas Wilson, executive Assistant to the Minister of Infrastructure, Port Services and Transport issued a statement on the matter in an attempt to clarify the issue.
“Over the last week, there has been much public discussion about changes to the regulations regarding the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act. The Ministry of Infrastructure, Port Services and Transport wishes to bring clarity to this matter,” the statement commenced.
“Firstly, the last amendment to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act Cap 8.01 was done in 2006. Section 85 of this law gives a Traffic Officer the authority to request that a person driving a motor vehicle produces a driver’s licence for examination. Failure to comply could result in a fine not exceeding $1,000.00 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding three (3) months,” it further explained.
The statement then went on to say that by publication of Statutory Instrument (SI) 46 of May 2015, violation of section 85 in the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act has been made a ticketable offence. The fine that this offence now attracts will not exceed $250.00 as opposed to the previous $1,000.00.
According to the Ministry these changes became necessary because the previous mechanism of 48 hours was being exploited and was proving to be unreliable as persons were being dishonest by not providing factual information about their identity. Further, that there have also been cases where persons who have been involved in accidents have left the island leaving the other parties at great loss and without the means to be compensated. The requirement for having identification on one’s person is primarily for ensuring that a driver can be identified at the time of an accident or subsequently traced.
The Ministry went on to say that changes to the regulations should therefore be viewed by citizens as positive attempts by the government to ensure safety on our roads for both drivers and pedestrians.
The question now is: where did the police get their information, especially about the amount of the fine, in the first instance? Also how will this new amendment curb the carnage now prevalent on our roads as well as the proliferation of drivers speeding and riders without helmets? In an era of modern technology can’t a simple police hand-held device be used to determine the validity of someone’s motor vehicle documents? Finally, why did it take the Ministry of Infrastructure an entire week to lend its voice to the debate and offer some clarity?