EDITORIAL – Amnesty offers a clean slate for vehicle owners

A six-month amnesty could help clear thousands of delinquent vehicles from our island and clean up the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing books, moving forward.

We encourage readers to avail themselves of the opportunity to start afresh.

As the Compass has reported, starting this week through Nov. 1, owners of unlicensed vehicles will be able to re-license, transfer ownership or de-register their vehicles with the DVDL without paying back licensing fees. It is to be hoped that the amnesty will clear out many of the estimated 37,406 unlicensed vehicles in Cayman.

Some of these vehicles have been out of compliance for years or even more than a decade. Others are believed to have been destroyed, going back as far as 2004’s Hurricane Ivan, without having been properly taken off the books. But our concern is not primarily with these vanished vehicles, rather those hulking heaps that still lurk on our vacant lots and roadsides, attracting vandals, thieves, wildlife and debris as they slowly decompose.

Earlier this year, the Department of Environmental Health began aggressively attacking Grand Cayman’s plague of derelict vehicles, advising that the public may drop them at any landfill without paying a fee for disposal, or ask the DEH to retrieve the vehicle from private property for $75.

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Even so, some owners likely still found it easier to dump their old junkers in an out-of-the-way spot than pay hundreds of dollars in back registration simply to haul them to the dump. DVDL’s decision to waive back licensing fees removes the last barrier, while enabling the department to finally clean up its books.

Opposition leader Ezzard Miller publicly objected to the amnesty on the grounds that it gives a pass to noncompliant drivers and fails to hold government accountable. He argued, “By waiving the large backlog of licensing fees, the government is falling back on the politically motivated, non-punitive, forgiving position, because they have found themselves facing the embarrassment of not having insisted on the enforcement of the law as fees become due.”

On one hand, we can see the logic in Miller’s position. After all, licensing ones’ vehicles is every owner’s responsibility. Given the sheer volume of unlicensed vehicles, government could be giving up any hope of collecting millions of dollars in unpaid fees.

But we disagree that a one-time amnesty will necessarily reward “neglect of duty” and encourage a “breakdown of respect for the law”. Sometimes the best way out of a seemingly hopeless mess is to simply hit ‘reset’ and start over – provided, of course, that there is a plan to ensure the situation does not again get out of hand.

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