The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service begins its holiday season traffic crack-down today, amid some uncertainty over which version of the country’s Traffic Law they will be enforcing.
Lawmakers passed an entirely revised version of law earlier this month and it contains some fairly significant changes; including a ban on using hand-held cell phones while driving and the creation of a new criminal offence for careless driving.
However, the police officer in charge of the holiday enforcement effort said it was her understanding the new measures included in the revised Traffic Bill wouldn’t take effect until early next year.
“The regulations [to the law] must be complete,” said Chief Inspector Angelique Howell. “What you can do is start preparing yourself from now.”
RCIPS officers are encouraging drivers to put a “hands free” phone kit at the top of their Christmas shopping list in 2011.
The revised Traffic Law allows for the use of hands free cellular devices, but it does not let drivers use hand held cell phones while in the car unless they are pulled over to the side of the road and out of traffic. Talking on a hand held cell phone while stuck in traffic or at a stop light is an offence, however calling 911 on a hand held is not an offence under the new law.
Chief Inspector Howell said the new law, when it does take effect, does make it a primary offence to use a hands free cell phone while driving. In other words, you don’t have to violate any other traffic rule before police stop you for talking on a hand-held cell phone.
Also, the new offence of causing death while carelessly driving could lead to seven years in prison, upon conviction, once the new law comes into effect.
The section of the bill reads: “A person who drives a vehicle or animal on a road without care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons, and by so doing causes the death of another person commits an offence.”
The bill also creates a separate and new criminal offence for disqualified drivers who cause fatal accidents; for instance, drivers who do not have insurance or updated coupons on their vehicle.
The holiday traffic crack-down – dubbed Operation Christmas Cracker – is going to focus not only on driving, but home and business security, and safety at sea, according to RCIPS Superintendent Adrian Seales.
“It’s a much more rounded campaign,” Mr. Seales said. “We hope to reduce the opportunities for criminality and make people much more aware of the role they can play in making the Cayman Islands’ festive season safe and crime free.
Ms Howell said each week of the holiday campaign will have a different “theme”. For the first week, road safety takes centre stage, she said.
“High visibility patrols and road checks will be commonplace,” Ms Howell said, adding police were disappointed at the increase in traffic-related problems during the 2010 holiday season – which saw a pedestrian killed by a car on West Bay Road and the number of car accidents double over what is normally seen in Cayman.
“Last year, we were so disappointed by the blatant disregard that people showed for safety on our roads that we called for a multi-agency national road safety strategy to be developed,” Mr. Seales said.
This season’s road safety campaign will run from 28 November through 4 January, 2012.