Amid growing commuting headaches affecting primarily children, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) says it will use “discretion” when inspecting public passenger vehicles (PPVs) that transport juveniles under the new Road Traffic Act.
At the root of the contention is outrage over what some commuters have termed the ‘inflexible and unrealistic’ Section 73 (1) of the law, which penalises all motorists with a J$5,000 fine if children travel without a child restraint system.
In response, taxi operators largely refused to carry students out of fear of attracting the $5,000 fine and a four-demerit-point penalty on one’s driver’s licence—triggering a wave of public outcry for the infraction to be revised or scrapped outright.
Acknowledging the concern in a statement this afternoon (February 3), Assistant Commissioner of Police Gary McKenzie indicated that the JCF will await the decisions made by Government for legislative redress.
“Since the passage of the new Road [Traffic] Act and Regulations, there have been concerns [around] the use of child restraint systems and car seats, especially by public passenger vehicle operators. We also note that based on those concerns, the authorities have indicated that they are reviewing the matter,” the senior cop disclosed.
“As a result of this ongoing review, the police will use their discretion in relation to seatbelts and the child restraint systems and will allow public passenger vehicles to operate as it were under the old law until that review has been completed,” added McKenzie, who heads the JCF’s Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Division.
Oppostion Leader Mark Golding was the first lawmaker to publicly admit that the child-restraint parameters of the Road Traffic Act should have excluded PPVs.
“We legislators overlooked the impact of section 73(1) & the definition of “child” in the new Road Traffic Act. PPVs should’ve been excluded from that rule. The police should stop enforcing a baby seat requirement for PPVs until the new Act is speedily amended to cure this oversight. I plan to address this with a Private Member’s Bill which I will bring to Parliament,” Golding explained.