PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (TE) – Trini males who habitually drive with a beer in one hand and their other hand on the wheel will face a hefty $5,000 fine and six months jail, once the new Motor Vehicle Bill becomes law.
Once you break that cork, you are breaking the law.
The bill, which was debated in the Senate yesterday, makes it an offence for a “person to drive or operate a motor vehicle while having in the cabin area…an opened bottle, container or vessel with any alcoholic beverage”.
“You see persons driving down the road with a beer in they hand…We are eliminating that. If you want to go and enjoy yuhself, you park up your car and do what yuh have to do and get somebody else to drive you home or go with somebody else,” Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz warned as he piloted the Motor Vehicle Bill in the Senate yesterday.
He explained that in the “chartered buses” or the “party” or “fete” bus that goes on excursions, there will be a demarcation line beyond which there would be no alcohol.
Cadiz said there would also be a zero tolerance policy for public vehicles and vehicles for hire, whereby these drivers must have zero alcohol in their system — “breath alcohol concentration must not exceed zero microgrammes” — once the bill becomes law.
“Whether you are driving a PTSC bus, a government-owned vehicle or a taxi for hire….You must be stone cold sober,” Cadiz said.
New drivers must also have a “zero blood alcohol level,” he added.
Able-bodied persons who park in spaces designated for the differently-abled in supermarkets, pharmacies and other public places would also be fined up to $5,000.
“So your groceries will no longer cost you (just) $500 (if you park in these parking spots),” Cadiz warned.
All passengers — no longer just the driver and front passenger — but everyone will have to use seatbelts under the new law. This would include users of heavy T drivers, police and emergency vehicles, who under the current law are not required to use seat belts. They will have to be seat-belted, Cadiz said.
People selling used cars will be required to have vehicle trader certificates. “How many times we have seen people reading the classified ads, or a number on a lamp post, and people go and put down $30,000 deposit…and then can’t find the individual (or car). If you are in the business of selling second hand vehicles (local or foreign used), you will have to have a vehicle trade certificate, otherwise the vehicle would not be transferred (by the licensing authority),” he said.
Cadiz said this requirement would also eliminate the trading of stolen vehicles.
He told the Senate that the trade in cars was healthy. In the first four months of this year, some 20,000 new cars were registered compared with 33,000 for the whole of 2014, he said.
Cadiz was piloting the New Motor Vehicle Bill, which, among other things would modernise this country’s Licensing Authority by replacing it with a Motor Vehicle Authority.
Cadiz said there had been a drop in stolen vehicles, from 1,658 in 2009 to 742 in 2014.
Noting that most crimes involved the use of a car, he said the bill would create a system to enable police officers “at the drop of a hat” to recognise whether the licence plate is an authentic match to the vehicle and to access any information on the criminal record of the driver.
“The old system of going to a corner shop and getting a licence plate is gone,” Cadiz said, adding that the new system would also allow police to track stolen vehicles.
Cadiz also said there was a 25 per cent drop in road fatalities over the previous year (2013), which in turn registered a 43 per cent drop from the previous year (2012) because of the stiff penalties associated with DUI.
“The one area we are very concerned about is the pedestrian fatalities…which have actually increased. These are persons going across the road in the middle of the night. The walkover is right there and they insist on darting across six lanes of cars,” he said, adding quickly that this was not the situation in every case.
Cadiz said the last time the road fatality figure was under 100 in Trinidad and Tobago was in 1959. “If you look at where we are now, we might very well break that record this year,” he said
Cadiz said the Licensing Authority currently earned revenue of $160 million. He said with the implementation of the new bill, this would probably double to about $300 million, “not by raising any tax, but by just ensuring that people pay their fees”.
He said the bill would also eliminate “some of the ‘incentive’ programmes at Licensing Office”. “I know people who were illiterate and therefore could not pass a registration test and yet they have a heavy-T licence,” he said, adding that all of this would be eliminated.