Minister of Transport, Works and Maintenance Dr William Duguid and one of his Cabinet colleague today publicly disagreed over the penalties for those who flout the road traffic laws, especially those who refuse to pay insurance.
Declaring he has a zero tolerance for such lawbreakers, Minister of Energy and Water Resources Wilfred Abrahams recommended automatic jail time for those acts of “wanton recklessness”.
However, in wrapping up debate on the Road Traffic Amendment Bill 2018, Duguid chided his colleague for his “militant” approach.
“I understand the Honourable Member for Christ Church East and his militant way of doing things, but it is a process, and we have to get this process right . . . because at the end of the day, whether we like it or not, there are 750 public service vehicles on our roads, and there are only 80 or 90 Transport Board buses. So the vast majority of people are transported in Barbados through public service vehicles,” Duguid said.
Stressing the need for a less aggressive approach to addressing breaches to the road traffic laws, the Minister of Transport urged his Cabinet colleague to recognize that Government needed to work in partnership with the private operators.
“We have to recognize that the public service vehicles are our partners in transport in this country and we have to get our relation right with them,” he said.
The Bill, which was introduced and passed today, was to “amend the Road Traffic Act, Cap. 295 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”.
Duguid promised that there would be other amendments, among which will be provisions for random drugs testing to target those who drive under the influence of prescription medicine, in addition to those who drive while drunk.
“Drunk driving is a serious problem, and it not only goes as drunk driving because it is not only alcohol, it is impaired driving . . . because people don’t only abuse alcohol, they abuse other medications as well. Not only marijuana, they also abuse prescription drugs. So we are going to go further. Not only would it be assessing alcoholic use, but a complete assessment of impaired driving as a whole rather than just sticking to one drug,” he pointed out.
The Road Traffic Act introduced last November by then Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley made provisions for breathalyzer testing, as well as random alcohol and drug testing of people who operate public service vehicles and heavy-duty cargo vehicles.
Lashley had said at the time breathalyzer testing would ensure that once there was reasonable cause, the Royal Barbados Police Force could ask for a breath sample from drivers suspected to be under the influence. Those who fail to comply without reasonable excuse face a $1,000 fine, six months’ imprisonment or both. (EJ)