Government has moved to Parliament to amend the Road Traffic Act CAP. 289A after consultation with the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) to deal with the increasing number of road accidents on the island
The Road Traffic Amendment Bill 2017 was presented at a sitting of the House of Representatives at the Trade Centre last Friday by Minister of Communication, Works and Public Utilities, Gregory Bowen.
According to the minister a number of the accidents were caused mainly as a result of drunk driving based on the observation of the police force.
Minister Bowen told Parliament that the amendment will allow RGPF to execute measures that can help to prevent the occurrences of accidents.
“We note that we have had a series of accidents over the last few years and these can be attributed to instances of driving under the influence, driving with hand held devices in our hands performing other activities…”, he said.
“…Mr. Speaker, we also want to enhance the ability of the police to carry out the work for an un-obstructive traffic flow throughout the nations…”, he added.
The senior government minister told Parliament that one of the issues to be addressed under the amendment bill is the need to give the police the authority to conduct test on drivers suspected to be under the influence of alcohol.
“We know … in the other countries, in other jurisdictions, in the developed countries and right here within our own sub region Mr. Speaker, a person who has consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the proportion thereof in his or her breath exceeds the prescribed limit (35 grams of alcohol in 100 milliliters) of breath is unfit to drive a vehicle. Once you have above those prescribed limits, you should not and you would be going against the law if you drive your vehicle.
“…So, where a member of the police force has reasonable cause to suspect…you might see the car wobbling, you might come out of the car and you see the person drifting…they can demand that you take a breathalyzer.
Minister Bowen stated that anyone who refuses to take a breathalyser or does anything to alter his breath, can be fined $5000 on first conviction, as well as up to 12 months in prison while on the second conviction, the fine will be increased to $10,000.0 and up to 2 years imprisonment.
The bill also seeks to give the RGPF the right to execute drug tests.
The Keith Mitchell-led ruling New National Party (NNP) government is also amending the law to address persons driving and using hand held devices like cellphones.
Under the amendment, a person who is convicted of violating this aspect of the law is liable on summary conviction to a fine of EC$3500.00 and to imprisonment for three months.
However, the act gives the line minister the authority to exempt a specific device from the definition of mobile phone and the categories of persons who will be exempted.
Minister Bowen told Parliament: “…Ambulance drivers may have to communicate to save the patient, the police may have to communicate to avoid a terrorist incident…so these persons and others will be exempted…”.
The other amendment made to the Traffic bill gives police officers the authority to place immobilised mechanical devices like a clamp on the wheels of vehicles that create obstruction to traffic.
The owner of the vehicle can retrieve it for a fine of $125 and an additional $25 for each day the vehicle remains in police custody.
No person except a police officer or person authorised by a police officer may remove or attempt to remove the clamp on a vehicle.
Anyone who infringes on the law can be fine up to $5000.00.
Under the amended law, the vehicle can remain under the control of the police three months after which the lawmen can apply to the court to dispose of it.
When contacted by THE NEW TODAY newspaper, the Traffic Department of The Police Force indicated that the Breathalyzers and Wheel Clamps are currently not in their possession but efforts are being made to put them into effect “in the near future”.