KINGSTON, Jamaica – With more than 3,000 traffic fatalities since January 2001, government officials plan to get tough on traffic offenders with tech-savvy surveillance cameras.
Up to 8 July, 183 road users were killed in fatal collisions, just two shy of the death toll for the comparative period last year. The National Road Safety Council is hoping that the technology will come on stream in the next 18 months.
Paula Fletcher, executive director of the NRSC, said the road-safety authority understands the urgency of curbing traffic fatalities.
“A vehicle almost becomes a weapon (so) it can’t be business as usual,” Fletcher said.
“We really believe that this is a critical intervention (needed) to stem fatalities and injuries on our roads, specifically those concerned with speeding and breaking the red light.”
Fletcher told The Gleaner that Transport and Works Minister Mike Henry has established a committee to examine the policy and legislative framework that would be required for the implementation of the surveillance cameras, geared towards improving the prosecution of traffic offences.
The committee has also been mandated to look at various models being used overseas. At the end of the consultative process, a position paper will be presented to Henry.
CAUGHT IN THE ACT
The electronic surveillance system is designed to capture motorists in the act of breaching the traffic laws. She pointed out that the cameras can be programmed to capture offences such as speeding or running the red light by taking a picture of the vehicle and its licence plate.
“When going at a certain speed, it triggers the camera to take a picture,” she said.
Fletcher argued that resource constraints in the Jamaica Constabulary Force were hampering police capability to nab traffic offenders. She said the introduction of cameras would prove to be a deterrent to speeding and other breaches of the Road Traffic Act.
“Countries that use the technology have realised a reduction in the number of traffic offences. They have found it very helpful in supplementing the work of the police,” Fletcher explained.
She also said the introduction of the devices would reduce the incidence of police personnel shaking down motorists or drivers trying to bribe the lawmen.
“It’s not so easy to negotiate with the technology,” Fletcher quipped.
Superintendent Claude Reynolds, head of the Traffic Division, concurred.
“It would eliminate police from collecting and that is one thing we are totally against. Many motorists are just as guilty as the person who accepts,” he said.
Reynolds hopes the technology will be implemented by the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
Fletcher said the proposal was predicated on a private entity financing the multimillion-dollar initiative and recouping its investment by collecting a portion of the ticket payments.