The revised Cayman Islands Traffic Law, approved by legislators last month, has been signed by Governor Duncan Taylor.
However, it will be at least another few weeks before the law comes into full force, according to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
According to a clarified statement sent to the Caymanian Compass Tuesday afternoon by the RCIPS, the commencement date for the law will be set sometime in January or February.
There are a number of new provisions for drivers to be aware of:
Hand-held cell phone ban
After it was left out of the original draft of the Cayman Islands Traffic Bill early this year, a partial ban on using a cell phone while driving has been put back into the legislation.
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.”
The law does not make it an offence to call 911 on a hand-held cell phone to report an emergency to police, fire or ambulance crews. It also allows the use of hand-held phones in a vehicle that has been stopped and is out of the way of traffic; that does not include drivers who are backed up in traffic jams at stop lights or stop signs.
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 Law.
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.
Legislators passed the Motor Vehicle
Insurance (Third Party Risk) Amendment Bill 2011 earlier this month to enable
electric vehicles travelling on public roads to be
insured. The bill is awaiting the governor’s signature.
Tests for foreign drivers
Foreigners who come to the Cayman Islands to live and work are required to take at least a written driver’s test – and in some cases a road test – to obtain a driver’s licence, but the change won’t really affect tourists.
Under the law, any visitors or foreign residents who already hold a licence from their home country can drive in Cayman for up to six months, if those individuals come from a country that was a contract member of the convention on road traffic in Paris (1926), Geneva (1949) or Vienna (1968). Those conventions include most of the larger countries that make up the majority of the foreign population in Cayman, however, Jamaica does not appear on the most recent lists available for countries that have signed up to the Vienna convention.
The US, Australia and New Zealand also did not sign up to the 1968 Vienna convention, but they appear in earlier versions of the agreement.
After the six-month period has expired, the changes in the Traffic Law would require the driver to pass a written test. Drivers from the ‘convention countries’ would not have to take a road test to be issued a Cayman Islands drivers licence.
However, individuals who do not hold licences from a ‘convention country’ would be required to pass both a written and road test to get their Cayman Islands drivers licence.
The law allows a person with a Cayman licence that is about to expire or who has held a local licence within the past five years to renew without taking a driving test.
“For purposes of renewal, a licence issued under the repealed law is as good as a licence issued under this law,” the law states.
Another major change leaves the responsibility of public parking enforcement up to police officers or their contracted agents.
Wheel clamping will be outlawed in public parking places.
“A person who operates as an agent for the clamping of vehicles in public places; or clamps or tows away a vehicle in a public place commits an offence,” the bill reads.
The change does not mean individuals who park illegally in public places, or who park illegally in private spaces cannot be towed.
The new Traffic Law creates criminal offences where none existed before for “inconsiderate” or “careless” driving in instances where another person is killed.
The section of the law 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 charge of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving carries a maximum $10,000 fine and up to seven years in prison upon conviction. In addition, the guilty party could have their driving licence taken away for three years or longer, depending on any jail sentence received.
Cayman currently has criminal offences for causing death by reckless or dangerous driving, but the lower standard of carelessness is not applied.
The law 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.
Again, the offence would carry up to a seven year imprisonment term plus fines upon conviction.