Draft bill going to LA by June
Two top government officials confirmed Friday that a proposed ban on using hand-held cell phones while driving was left out of the revised Traffic Bill that is due to come before the Legislative Assembly this summer.
Chief Officer of the Ministry of Works Kearney Gomez, the government entity that has chief responsibility for policy changes regarding traffic rules, said language making reference to a cell phone ban was not in the draft bill.
Ministry Assistant Chief Officer Tristan Hydes confirmed that the proposal for a cell phone ban had been left out of the draft bill. But Mr. Hydes also noted civil servants don’t get the last word on such matters.
“Although our bill is drafted and we’ve got all the final touches on it now… if it goes to the house and they want to put it in, they can do it,” Mr. Hydes said.
Both the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and an association from the Seventh-day Adventist Church have advocated for a cell phone ban, at least for hand-held cellular devices while driving.
“Cell phone use is one aspect we will be looking to address within our planned multi-agency road safety strategy,” RCIPS Chief Inspector Angelique Howell told the Caymanian Compass in January. “While there is nothing currently within legislation that bans the use of cell phones whilst driving, it is clear that any activity undertaken by a driver that distracts him or her, results in a collision, or impairs driving ability could result in a charge of careless or dangerous driving.”
“The RCIPS has recommended the banning of cell phones. This recommendation is contained within the new draft traffic law, which was submitted for consideration by Cayman Islands legislators in 2008.”
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency – an arm of the Seventh-day Adventists – began a public education and survey effort focused on the dangers of “cell phone” driving, including texting and Internet browsing, last year.
“We have also been in touch with members of the government advising them of our intent to launch this programme, as well as the future plans to have legislation tabled before the Legislative Assembly to enact such laws against cell phone driving in the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Evans said earlier this year.
But Mr. Hydes said the government has not received such recommendations across all sectors of the Cayman Islands public.
“That’s why we haven’t put it in,” he said. “From some of the public we get ‘you can’t use a device at all’, then we get a certain sector of the public that says ‘well, you can use hands-free’, then we get another that says ‘you can use a hand-held device, you just can’t text on it’.
“Then we have those that say ‘forget about it altogether’. So we can’t just accommodate one group.”
Mr. Hydes said government would collect as much information as it could and present it to lawmakers prior to the bill going to the legislature.
Mr. Gomez said “it was a promise” that the revised Traffic Bill would be presented to lawmakers by June.
Mr. Gomez also said Friday that changes to Cayman’s Traffic Law will allow 100 per cent electric-powered vehicles to be used on Cayman roads.
Cayman Automotive President John Felder – who introduced Cayman’s first gas-assisted electric powered vehicle to the Islands on Friday – said he expected the legal amendments to be similar to those in the United States that allow electric cars to be used as “neighbourhood vehicles” that cannot go on high-speed thoroughfares.
He’s eagerly awaiting the change.
“This has been a five-year journey,” Mr. Felder said, who first spoke to the Compass about importing electric cars in 2006. “This is like a dream come true. But this is not for me,,,it’s for the Cayman Islands.”
Premier McKeeva Bush said electric and hybrid vehicle importation was quite timely, especially with gas prices in the US expected to reach US$5 per gallon this summer.
“Just [Friday] morning, the newspaper is saying it can go to as high as eight, seven dollars somewhere around there,” he said, referring to Cayman Islands petrol prices, which are now hovering just above CI$5 per gallon for regular unleaded.