Traffic Act Amendment to ‘Revolutionise’ Handling of Incidents

Wednesday 26th, October 2011 / 18:06 Published by

NASSAU, The Bahamas – The proposed amendment to Section 56 of the current Road Traffic Act will “revolutionise” the way non-serious traffic crashes are handled in The Bahamas, Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest said Wednesday.

Mr. Turnquest said the proposed amendment will allow drivers to resolve the incident on their own in the case of minor, non-serious traffic crashes, by-passing the need for having a police officer attend the scene.

He said this will “free-up” police officers to deal with more serious accidents “where there are serious injuries or major damage.”

The amendment will not apply to traffic crashes involving fatalities or where there are serious injuries or damages. Police Officers will have to be called to the scene in these instances.

It will also only come into play where there is “mutual agreement” between the parties involved as to who is at fault.

Section 56 currently requires the attendance of Police Officers at the scene of all road traffic crashes.

“Section 56(1) is a revolutionary step in the way we deal with traffic incidents now,” Mr. Turnquest said. “The law requires that when an accident occurs, no matter how minor the incident, a police officer must be called. In fact, it is now an offence for the driver of a vehicle to leave the scene of an accident.

“We believe that we are a civilised society and that when two drivers – who mutually agree to who is at fault for an accident – they should be able to resolve the situation, exchanging pertinent information and where necessary, take steps to have the necessary repairs done,” Mr. Turnquest added.

Mr. Turnquest said the majority of the incidents reported to the Traffic Division of the Royal Bahamas Police Force are “accidents of this nature.”

He said that in addition to providing police officers with more time and greater opportunity to deal with the more serious traffic crashes, the proposed amendment will also help to reduce traffic backlogs.

“The effects of this amendment will prove to be beneficial in a number of areas,” Mr. Turnquest said. “So far in 2011, 6,248 traffic accidents occurred where there was damage only. If only 50 per cent of these could have been resolved by the parties involved without involving police intervention, it would have gone a long way in freeing up police resources.”

Mr. Turnquest said it should be noted that “the amendment will only work” where there is mutual agreement between the parties involved.

“Both parties must feel comfortable and there is no doubt has to be a degree of trust, (but) the system can work and prove beneficial to all parties if that trust exists,” he added.

The National Security Minister said the amendment “does not prevent” any driver from calling for police assistance in cases where there is doubt about fault, or where there are doubts about the integrity of one of the drivers.

“I need to stress that this provision only makes it possible for the drivers to resolve the incident with mutual consent,” he said.

Mr. Turnquest said the amendment also provides for drivers to report the incident to police as soon as is reasonably practicable, and in any case, within 24 hors of the accident in cases where one of the drivers does not provide his/her name and address.

“Let me reiterate that this amendment will not apply to incidents involving fatalities, or where there are serious injuries or where there is serious damage,” Mr. Turnquest said. “In these instances, a police officer must be called as is now the case.”

Fixed Penalties

Mr, Turnquest said a new section – 96A – has been included in the proposed Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill that will move fixed penalty offences under the Road Traffic Act “as they should be.”

He said the intent of the Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) is to allow a Police Officer to issue an offender with a fixed penalty, or a ticket as it is known in other jurisdictions, notifying them of the offence they have committed, while giving them the option to either pay a specified fine (fixed penalty) within a certain time period, or appear before a magistrate to have the matter determined.

“The advantage of the Fixed Penalty Notice system is that the fine (or penalty) is significantly lower than it would be if the person is found guilty by a magistrate,” Mr. Turnquest said.

“The system was designed so as not to clog the court system with cases where there was clearly a breach. For example, a fixed penalty could be issued for someone who parked in a no parking area. In such cases, there is usually not much room for dispute and in such cases where the breach is obvious, rather than wasting time in court, the offender can pay a fine.”

Mr. Turnquest said another “significant advantage” of the Fixed Penalty Notice system is that the alleged offender, by paying the fine, will not have a conviction recorded against him/her.

He said a “comprehensive review” is being undertaken by the Road Traffic Department and the Royal Bahamas Police Force of the list of Fixed Penalty Notice offences with a view to adding other offences to that list.

“The list is also being amended to ensure that the fixed penalty fine is significantly less than what may be awarded by a magistrate should the matter go to trial so as to encourage offenders to take advantage of the system,” Mr. Turnquest added.

Bahamas Information Services

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