Following is part of a column I wrote for the Gleaner on June 14th, 1998. 1998, people. Twenty years ago.
“There a clipping in my file of things-to-write-about from The Gleaner of January 31, 1998. The caption reads, “Bus Driver Admits to 39 Breaches of Traffic Laws.” According to the Gleaner, the 28-year-old bus driver, Philip Raymond, had committed ’every possible breach’ of the Road Traffic Act. Raymond’s breaches included disobeying red lights, failure to stop at a school crossing patrol, not stopping at bus stops, ignoring unbroken white lines, careless driving and dangerous driving. Mr. Raymond was in court for his traffic transgressions because he had finally killed a man.
“On October 29th, 1996, Paul Mattocks, a graduate student of the University of the West Indies, drove his car down Red Hills Road and was about to cross over onto Constant Spring Road. Mr. Raymond, driving a public passenger bus, presumably filled with people, although The Gleaner story did not say so, began overtaking traffic at 50 miles per hour and slammed into Mr. Mattocks’ vehicle, pinning it against the wall at Brooklyn Supermarket. Mr. Mattocks died as a result of his injuries, and Mr. Raymond was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for causing death by dangerous driving. His drivers’ license was also suspended for 15 years.
“Not that the latter point is of any importance. To quote Justice Pitter, bus driver Raymond, clearly ’has a total disregard for law and order.’ Given Jamaica’s present climate of anarchy and lawlessness, once Mr. Raymond emerges from prison, he will no doubt continue to drive with or without a licence. And just as the police allowed him to amass 39 traffic breaches without taking any action, Mr. Raymond will in all likelihood continue to threaten the lives of other road users. Mr. Mattocks died a victim of the ineffectiveness of our law enforcement system.
“Indeed, the police have just admitted they are unable to serve the however many warrants for arrest issued for those who have not surrendered their drivers’ licences, having accumulated the necessary number of points under the much-lauded ticketing system. I used to be a member of the National Road Safety Council and when the ticketing system was introduced, I remember asking how it was going to be monitored. I was told some version of don’t-worry-your-pretty-little-head. I remember when the number of suspended licences reached the dizzy heights of ten, and still the arrest warrants had not been served, asking again how this was going to be addressed. More fluff. When I went on to express the view that the ticketing system was a waste of time and money, because the penalties for accumulation of points would never be applied, I was accused of undue cynicism.”
May 2012: A Portmore bus driver involved in an accident that killed a school boy had 85 outstanding traffic violations.
July 2012: The Jamaican government offered an amnesty for “hundreds of thousands” of unpaid traffic tickets. The records were found to be inaccurate as many fines had in fact been paid.
September 2017: Another traffic ticket amnesty was offered, expiring January 13, 2018.
The only reasonable conclusion is that the Jamaican government regards the issuing of traffic tickets as a revenue generating exercise and they have no intention of enforcing the traffic laws. And those who are killed or injured by reckless drivers in breach of those laws are considered collateral damage.