After it was left out of the original draft of the Cayman Islands Traffic Bill early this year, it seems at least a partial ban on using a cell phone while driving has been put back into the legislation.
The revision of the country’s current Traffic Law could come before the Legislative Assembly for a vote as early as next month, following its recent approval by Cabinet members.
According to officials within the Ministry of Works, who led efforts to redraft the law, what is now proposed is not a total ban on using a cell phone while driving.
“You have to have [the cell phone] hands free, and there are certain stipulations on using it,” said ministry assistant chief officer Tristan Hydes. “There are restrictions.”
A copy of the new Traffic Bill had not been released and more specifics on the partial cell phone ban were not available by press time.
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.
Mr. Hydes said a number of other measures were also included in the new Traffic Bill.
Provisions for both neighbourhood electric vehicles and electric-powered cars that can be driven on Cayman Islands roads alongside gas-powered cars are included in the Traffic Bill.
Neighbourhood electric vehicles are lower-powered cars generally driven on side streets and parking lots, but which cannot be driven on main thoroughfares. Larger, faster brands of electric-powered vehicles will be allowed to be registered for use on local roads.
Right now, most electric-powered vehicles can’t be registered in the Cayman Islands because they can’t go fast enough and some only travel up to 40 to 50 miles on a charge.
However, vehicles currently being imported by Cayman Automotive can travel at speeds of 65 to 85 miles per hour and can drive up to 100 miles on a charge.
Cayman Automotive President John Felder has also been in discussions with the government and Caribbean Utilities Company with the goal of opening up a network of electric car charging stations across Grand Cayman.
The first such station – a solar panel-powered station – was unveiled at Governors Square in June.
Premier McKeeva Bush has previously hinted his government may reduce import duty on electric vehicles to 10 per cent.
Duty tariffs charged on car imports to Cayman is generally around 29 per cent, but can go higher depending on the size and value of the vehicle.
“When someone makes this kind of effort [referring to Mr. Felder] … I believe government ought to put our best foot forward and offer something,” Mr. Bush said earlier in the year.
Mr. Hydes said the revised Traffic Bill would also introduce licensing requirements for driving instructors who operate in the Cayman Islands.
The specifics of those requirements would likely be worked out in the regulations to the law, if the new Traffic Bill is passed, he said.
The revised bill would not include provisions for a graduated licensing programme for young drivers, Mr. Hydes said.
That programme was made part of the Islands’ Traffic Law by legislators in March 2005 and had a planned implementation date of January 2007.
That never happened and one of the stated reasons for delays in implementing the programme at the time was getting qualified driving instructors to participate.
Graduated licensing is a step-by-step programme young drivers would have to complete prior to earning a full driving licence.
After taking a written test to earn a provisional licence, teenage drivers would be given a certain period of time to clock road hours with a professional driving instructor.