Legal Affairs Department clears the air on new Road Traffic Act

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An official of Government’s Legal Affairs Department has sought to clear the air on certain aspects of the new Vehicles and Road Traffic Act.
One source of confusion is a list which has been circulating on social media for some time about exactly how much violators will be fined if they are found guilty under the new Act.
Legislative drafter and editor of the Gazette, Ryan Johnson, disclosed that the list is indeed false and he went a step further to announce the correct figures for the penalties for using handheld devices or other distracting activities while driving.
Johnson was a guest on OBSERVER AM yesterday when he shared the information with the public.
“The penalty for using a handheld mobile device or anything that’s likely to cause a distraction on the first occasion is $1,000 and your driver’s licence would be withheld or disqualified for up to three months,” he said.
“On the second occasion and every other occasion thereafter, it would be $2,500 and your driver’s licence would be disqualified up to a year.”
He also cleared the air on what is prohibited while driving on the roads of Antigua and Barbuda.
Johnson noted that the use of handheld devices or engagement in activities which can cause a distraction like eating and putting on makeup while in motion are prohibited.
“Sub-regulation 4 (d) is to the prohibition of using a handheld device. Sub-regulation 5 (d) is for use of handheld devices we permitted, which says that a person may drive a motor vehicle on the road while using a mobile device in hands-free mode. You can connect a Bluetooth device or you could just put your phone on loud speaker. No WhatsApping, no Facebooking or anything like that. A wireless communication to view, send or compose electronic [messages] while driving is prohibited.”
He, however, mentioned that although Bluetooth devices are accepted, electronic texting is not.
Johnson further warned against the use of handhelds by drivers while at a standstill, such as at stop lights.
“Yes, you can do it at a stop light but if it’s a situation whereby you are blocking traffic and can be charged under sub-regulation C, impeding traffic, so it is best to just not do it at the time so you don’t get caught in that position,” he said.
The amendments to the Act were passed in September 2018 and officially took effect on Friday 15th February 2019 to be aligned with international standards and public safety.

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