By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROPOSED amendments to the Road Traffic Act will make it illegal to drive or operate a vehicle while using a cellphone, or with an open alcoholic beverage.
Failing to “immediately” produce one’s drivers licence and insurance certificate when asked to do so by police will also become illegal as the Minnis administration eliminates provisions that gave drivers two days to produce such documents in order to escape penalties.
The Bill tabled yesterday makes it illegal to drive or operate a vehicle while using an electronic communication device, “whether by holding in one hand or both hands or with any other part of the body or otherwise,” unless the device is attached to the motor vehicle or is a part of a fixture in the vehicle.
The legislation further requires “the device remain affixed while being used or operated, or is specially adapted or designed to be affixed to the person of the driver or operator as a hands-free device and is used to enable the driver or operator to use or operate the electronic communication device without holding it”.
Driving instructors also will be prohibited from holding electronic devices under the bill but the stipulation will not apply to those driving emergency vehicles or a vehicle that is lawfully parked and not impeding traffic. The penalty for contravening these provisions will be a fine not exceeding $1000.
If the bill becomes law, it will also become illegal to have an open alcoholic beverage while driving.
The amendment, tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday, also prohibits people from obtaining a licence if they have outstanding fines or have not paid the requisite fees.
Fees are not applicable to the Governor General, members of the diplomatic, administrative or technical staff of a diplomatic mission, any consular officer or consular employee, any member of an international organization responsible for external affairs or any member of the “family forming part of the household” of non-Bahamian citizens in the aforementioned groups. Such people will not be required to pay a fee to receive their licence.
Presently, drivers have 48 hours to produce a licence and insurance certificate. The bill permits the police to arrest someone they suspect has failed to produce these documents in an attempt to deceive or avoid a penalty. Otherwise, people who have not produced the documents will escape arrest if they produce the documents in 24 hours.
The penalty for not producing an insurance certificate will remain the same––a fine of two hundred or imprisonment for three months or both.
The fine for not producing a driver’s licence will also remain the same at $40.
The Objects and Reasons page of the bill says: “This Bill seeks to amend section 21 of the Road Traffic Act to make the failure of a driver to produce his name and address, the name and address of the motor vehicle or certificate of motor insurance in respect of that motor vehicle, a criminal offence.”