Government is set to increase five-fold the fines for anyone found driving without basic insurance coverage, while doubling the prison time for the same offence.
The House of Assembly this evening approved the Road Traffic Amendment Bill 2018, which raises drastically the penalties on motorists who do not have third-party insurance or who simply fail to produce the soon-to-be-introduced insurance sticker.
In introducing the measure this morning, Minister of Transport, Works and Maintenance Dr William Duguid said it occurred to Government after it abolished the road tax in July, that the estimated 20,000 vehicle owners who over the years had not paid the road tax would likely not pay insurance.
Therefore, Duguid said, the Barbados Labour Party administration felt it necessary to make the penalty so punitive that potential offenders would think twice about driving without basic coverage.
“People became very concerned and those who were non-compliant with the road tax would now become non-compliant with payment of their insurance,” he explained.
“That fine in this new legislation will go to $5,000 for people driving on our roads without third-party insurance,” he announced.
Currently, the fine is $1,000, six months in prison, or both. Under the amended Act the prison sentence is being doubled to 12 months.
Duguid said the $1,000 fine was not enough to act as a deterrent, since, in many cases, it was a lot less than the insurance premiums.
As a result, he said, the lawbreakers would be willing “to take the risk and not pay insurance because if they got caught the fine was less than the amount they would have saved, although illegally, if they had not paid the insurance for that period of time.
“So we decided that the fine obviously had to come in line with the cost of insurance. So we chose the number of $5,000 because we thought that being much stiffer a penalty, it would deter people from taking that chance of not paying their insurance,” he explained, even as he pleaded with motorists to “please don’t take that risk, please don’t take that chance”.
These changes were among amendments to 30 sections of the Road Traffic Act approved last November. The amendments, according to the Bill, were meant “to provide for the abolition of the payment of road tax, to provide for the payment of registration fees for motor vehicles and to provide for related matters”.
Among the other punitive measures introduced are fines of $5,000, imprisonment for 12 months, or both, if the seller or new owner of a vehicle fails to report the change of ownership, or submit false information.
The law also now requires vehicle owners to display a sticker on the top right hand corner of their licence plates to indicate that the insurance has been paid.
“That sticker will denote the month and year that your insurance expires . . . . When you go and produce your proof of insurance you will be issued the sticker which you will put in the top right hand corner,” Duguid said.
He explained that the sticker would be tamper-proof and therefore “if you try to peel this sticker off . . . it will bubble up and the word void would come up”.
Vehicle owners will also be fined $5,000, face imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both, if they fail to produce the registration sticker or registration card, up from $200 or three months in jail for failing to place the registration card on the vehicle.
“In time we will have other security measures involved in this sticker,” Duguid promised.
The minister also said the practice of using private licence plates on commercial vehicles would end, with all commercial vehicles now required to use a blue and white licence number plate with the letter ‘C’ to indicate that it is commercial.
All the measures, he said, were meant to “bring back order to the roads of this country”, stressing that the administration would do “whatever we have to do to bring order back to the roads of this country”.
The amended legislation also makes provision for anyone visiting Barbados for less than six months to bring in a vehicle, as long as the person leaves with it.
However, he said, this would apply only to residents of countries with which Barbados has a reciprocal arrangement.
Duguid said the revenue from the measures in the amended legislation would “help us to clean our streets, to repair our roads. That revenue will help us to counter and to overcome the significant problems that the ministry is experiencing”.