Proposed demerit system could see drivers’ licences suspended

Government has proposed a demerit system for motorists which could see drivers losing their licences for up to one year based on the number of demerits.

Attorney-General Anil Nandlall tabled the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2014 in the National Assembly last month and in it are several provisions that were part of a previous bill rejected by the opposition when it was brought to the House by Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee last year. These include provisions for imprisonment, fines and the suspension of the driver’s licence of any person who operates a vehicle in the commission of an offence.

Clause Four of the Bill inserts eight new sections which provide a regime for the administration of the demerit points system. It provides for the assignment of demerit points, the period of suspension allotted for accumulated demerit points, notification, expunction of demerit points after three years, the right to appeal to the High Court, and for a person to surrender his driver’s licence upon being disqualified.

According to the bill, where any person is convicted of a traffic offence, the court shall, in addition to any punishment for that offence, order that the demerit points specified in relation to that offence be recorded against the driver’s licence of that person. Demerit points are based on the offence committed with the minimum being two for offences such as driving an unregistered vehicle and up to six demerit points for offences such as reckless or dangerous driving. The only non-traffic offence listed in the schedule is playing loud music in a bus or car for which an offender “earns” four demerit points on conviction.

If sufficient demerit points are recorded, the person will be disqualified from holding a licence for a certain period. Where the demerit points accumulated by a person amounts to ten or more but less than 16, the period of disqualification from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence shall be six months; 12 or more during a 12-month period would see the period of disqualification being one year and a similar period of disqualification for a person with 16 or more demerit points.

The bill makes provision for a person who applies for or obtains a driver’s licence while being disqualified under the demerit points system to be fined and imprisoned, and to be disqualified for a further period of six months.

Clause two redefines “owner” of a vehicle to include a person who is in possession of a vehicle that is the subject of a sales agreement, a power of attorney or a bill of sale. Clause three provides that when a vehicle is being transferred, both the registered owner and the person into whose possession the vehicle is being transferred must apply within seven days and be present before the licencing officer with the vehicle to change the name of the owner in the register and the certificate of registration.

Clause six provides that any person who drives or operates a vehicle used in the commission of an offence or who uses the vehicle to facilitate the commission of an offence is liable on conviction to a fine, imprisonment and disqualification from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence for a period of two years from the date of conviction.

Clause seven creates an offence where the registered owner of a vehicle that has been lost or stolen fails to make a report to a police station within seven days from the loss or theft.

Similar provisions were included in the bill tabled by Rohee last year. During the debate in June, Transport Minister Robeson Benn, reinforced calls made by Rohee for the bill to be passed. Benn highlighted the congestion which is rampant on Guyana’s roads and stated that stricter laws are needed to ensure continued recognition and compliance with the country’s road laws.

He had said that the bill included a limit on the amount of penalties (demerits) applied to wayward drivers before their licences are revoked.

Rohee had noted that the bill would address the lapses in Guyana’s vehicle registration process. He said that all details between a vehicle’s seller and buyer will be documented meticulously, and within a specified period of time. Rohee had said that this will ensure the easy identification of a vehicle’s owner, which will become especially useful when determining the owner of a vehicle used to commit a crime. Rohee said that unless these changes are made, persons will continue to exploit the systems.

The bill was one of three voted down by the combined opposition parties, continuing their policy of withholding support after their no-confidence vote against Rohee in 2012. The opposition at the time, signalled that it could support the passage of the bills if they are presented by another MP.

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