‘It’s all about money’ - Transport operators not surprised by $35-M traffic tickets in six days
Despite the government's insistence that the high level of fines in the new Road Traffic Act is meant to promote road safety, operators within the public transport system are contending that the fees are aimed at raking in big bucks for the state.
The criticism comes at a time when pockets of public transport operators in various sections of the island have been withdrawing their service to press for a roll-back in some of the fines.
Nearly $35 million in traffic tickets were issued by cops in the first six days of the new Road Traffic Act coming into force. According to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), more than 5,500 electronic tickets (e-tickets) were issued between February 1 and 6. The total value of these tickets is just over $34.9 million. As of February 7, errant motorists have paid a combined $2.4 million in fine for 404 of the tickets that have been issued.
"The Government continues to tell us the new traffic act is about safety and it is not about revenue, but I continue to say to the ministers that it is not for road safety but for revenue," Oscar Finnikin, director of communications of the One Voice Taxi Association, told THE STAR yesterday.
The new Road Traffic Act contains increased fines and penalties for violations as part of an overall strategy aimed at improving road safety. Prime Minister Andrew Holness said yesterday that the implementation of the new act is one example of the Government taking corrective steps to address a long-standing system of informality in the society which encourages disorder.
However, Finnikin is not convinced that the main aim is about road safety. He pointed, for example, at the $2,000 fine for not having a driver's licence in possession for examination if stopped by a cop.
"How does not having your licence on you makes the road less safer?" Finnikin quizzed.
"The fines are too high as we see fines moving from $800 to $10,000 and there are some ridiculous fines in the act."
Similarly, Frederick Bryan, general secretary of the National Council of Taxi Associations, says he is left to wonder the real motive behind the high fines for road traffic breaches under the new act.
"How can $35 million worth of tickets be served to motorists and on top of that the Government is pursuing a tight fiscal monetary policy and they say the economy is under fiscal discipline? Their intent is to extract scarce resources from the same set of people who are having it to survive on a daily basis and this is wrong," Bryan said.
"Although we are not talking a lot, we are not settled with the new Road Traffic Act and the intent of it. With this type of action by the government agencies, there seems to be other motives than trying to prevent people from driving recklessly and we would like to hear from them," Bryan added.