Too many bikes in Jamaica - Nat'l Road Safety Council recommends motorcycle tax to help reduce road deaths
The increase in the number of deaths of motorcyclists locally has now been met with a proposal by the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) to reduce the number of bikes in Jamaica and increase the tax levy on importation.
To date, 67 motorcyclists have died since the start of the year, compared with 59 and 72 for 2016 and 2015, respectively.
According to the NRSC, before 2015, annual motorcyclist deaths moved from 30 to 65 in 2014, hitting a historic high of 111 in 2015, the year it surpassed pedestrian fatalities for the first time as the leading category causing death on our roads.
Luchen Jones, vice-chairman of NRSC, said the proposal was put on the table following a recent meeting with NRSC Chairman, Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
"It's more a discussion, given the background of the significant increase in motorcyclist deaths. We are putting it out there for the public to be aware of what we are thinking to try and reduce the motorcycle deaths," Jones said.
"The rationale is that because we have had tremendous increase over five years, apparently for some of the bikers, the bike is not that important to them. When they are seized by the police, they don't come back for them. And, police report that they are seen riding a new bike in a short space of time."
THE STAR was told that too many bikes are in Jamaica, and many motorcycle riders are indisciplined and lack training, which leads to the carnage on our roadways.
"We believe that in addition to the indiscipline and the lack of training, there are just too many bikes in the country. We want to try and reduce the number of bikes in the country. That's why we are [recommending] putting a tax on it. In addition to that, we are mindful of the fact that some people have a difficulty purchasing the helmets. Therefore, the argument is that you apply the tax to one and you reduce the tax on the other one, so it compensates because we are also recommending a tax reduction on the helmets," he said.
But Marlon Kelly, general manager at Alex Imports, one of the leading motorcycle dealers, is not sold on the idea of taxation, and said the Government should aim to increase public knowledge.
"What I think the Government should do is try and educate the persons instead of trying to take away something and make something harder to acquire. That's not the solution. The solution is to educate the persons and let them understand the danger of riding a motorcycle without a helmet," Kelly told THE STAR.
The NRSC findings have revealed that a high illiteracy level has hampered the licensing of several motorcyclists, as they are unable to take the required road code test.
And that is where Kelly believes the problem is.
"It doesn't have anything to do with a motorcycle, and so they can't impose anything on the dealers who sell bikes. We are not selling a person a bike based on if they can't read and write. A bike can't ride itself, so I think they are looking at it with the wrong approach," he said.
"The fundamental problem is that you have to get these people literate and do more promotion on road safety, and insist that when persons go to the depot they can read and write and know how to handle the bike. Right now, I may have 50 bikes in stock, but those bikes can't kill nobody by just sitting there. So, if you impose a tax on them, it's not going to change what is happening."
He told THE STAR that the problem is still going to persist if certain steps aren't taken, because a bike is still cheaper than a car, and persons will still be able to acquire them.