By Carlena Knight
A veteran police officer attached to the traffic department is calling on the relevant authorities to make amendments to the Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, which pertains to the process of apprehending road users using hand held devices.
New changes to the Act were passed in September of 2018 and officially took effect on February 15th of this year.
According to the Act, police officers are not allowed to arrest road users who are caught using their cellphones but, instead, can only make a report which would then result in the individual being summoned to court. If the said individual fails to appear in court, then a bench warrant will be issued for their arrest.
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 the offender’s licence will be withheld or disqualified for up to three months. On the second occasion and every other occasion thereafter, it would be $2,500 and the driver’s licence would be disqualified for up to a year.
Sergeant Kenny McBurnie of the Traffic Department shared his opinion on the matter with OBSERVER media yesterday. He believes that once these minor changes are made, “it will send a stronger message to road users”.
“I am hoping that legislators will make changes in such a way that persons can either be ticketed or ticketed heavily or arrested, and that in itself will send a strong message, more than if persons are reported, in my opinion.
“I think that if persons are arrested for the offence or they are fined heavily, it would sink in … before a person really gets it with reporting them, but we are still doing our part. I personally have made reports on a few occasions thus far,” he added.
Sergeant McBurnie also offered some advice to road users who continue to break the law.
“We were on the road this morning and we saw no one on their cellphones; not one person, but I am sure that there were persons who were using their cellphones before they came through our area.
“We want persons to understand not because you see police on the road that you should try to hide the fact that you were using your cellphone, we want persons to refrain from using [it on the road] altogether,” he said.