Bad drivers beware!

House approves points system to curb traffic violations

The National Assembly yesterday passed amendments which will facilitate a merit system, which can see the suspension and possibly the revocation of the licences of delinquent drivers for several months after a series of traffic violations.

The Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, according to its second Clause, also redefines the meaning of the word “owner” in the Principal Act to now mean any “person who is in possession of a motor vehicle which is the subject of a sales agreement, a power of attorney or a bill of sale.”

Clause 2 of the bill requires that “when a motor 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 licensing officer with the motor vehicle to change the name of the owner in the register and the certificate of registration.”

The third Clause introduces the provision of a merit system. This Clause provides “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 in the High Court, and 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 period of six months.”

Clause 6 goes on to state that provisions are made for “any person who drives or operates a motor vehicle used in the commission of an offence or who uses the motor vehicle to facilitate the commission of an offence is liable on summary 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.”

The amendment bill, which is comprised of seven clauses, was brought for its second reading by Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, who explained that both of its provisions are intended to foster improvement. The bill was passed with the support of both APNU and the AFC.

According to Nandlall, provisions in the Principal Act created difficulties in establishing criminal liability. On several occasions, he explained, vehicles are used by persons to commit crimes and then abandoned. However, upon investigating, the Guyana Police Force’s investigators have often found that the person whose name appeared on the vehicle’s ownership certificate was not the owner of the vehicle at the time it was used to commit an offence. He said that in many situations, investigations have been foiled because of the lack of documentation showing the vehicle’s current owner. The solution therefore, he said, is to have the third-party recipient of a vehicle obtained through hire purchase, a sales agreement or a power of attorney place their names on the vehicle’s certificate of ownership.

Also speaking on the matter was A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) MP Basil Williams, who said that while he agreed with the merit system, he had an issue with the other aspect of the amendment bill. Williams said that persons may come into Guyana for brief periods, rent a car to commit an offence, then leave. This, he said, would present an issue under the system being proposed by the Nandlall’s bill.

Nandlall though, in correcting what he saw as William’s misconception, clarified that the legislation does not preside over cases where vehicles are loaned or rented, but cases where a process is facilitated for the ownership of a vehicle to be changed.

Alliance for Change (AFC) Leader Khemraj Ramjattan told the National Assembly that such provisions are long overdue, and were therefore welcomed by his party. He noted, however, that persons may come up with innovative ways to outsmart the new legislation, and charged the National Assembly to be ready to tackle attempts to outsmart the law.

Meanwhile, APNU MP Winston Felix, who is a former Commissioner of Police, suggested that persons who have their licences suspended should be required to undergo some remedial driving exercise to improve their driving. Referencing a reminder made by Williams of the level of traffic accident-related deaths for the year, Felix concluded that the driving in Guyana is “very bad.”

He suggested that the legislation should make some provision in the law for such remedial exercises to be made mandatory. Nandlall welcomed Felix’s proposals, although he said that the provision can be facilitated by the various agencies, including the Guyana Police Force and License Office of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), as opposed to being made a matter of public policy.

House Speaker Raphael Trotman, weighing in on Felix’ proposal, suggested that the delinquent drivers themselves pay for their own remedial driving exercises. He also suggested that some crimes should be considered so grievous that some drivers should have their licences revoked permanently.

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