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Dec 31, 2003

New traffic laws face motorists in 2004

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And speaking of vehicles, Belizean motorists will wake up on Thursday morning with a bigger goma than usual–thanks to some new legislation designed to make our highways safer. Patrick Jones reports.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

The beefed up traffic laws will usher in the new year with stiffer penalties for drivers who fail to measure up. But Traffic Manager for the Belize City Council, Kent Gabb, says law-abiding drivers have nothing to fear.

Kent Gabb, Traffic Manager, CITCO

“People who totally disregard the rules of the road, these are the people who should be worried because they will have to go into their pocket books. We regret that we have to raise some of these fines to actually hope to get some compliance from some of the drivers who might be disregarding the rules and regulations.”

The regulations now stipulate increased fines for everything from improperly closed car doors, to unauthorised lights, loud music, and illegal parking. But some of the less well-known offences are sure to get drivers attention.

Patrick Jones

“A stationary vehicle with the engine running is an offence now?”

Kent Gabb

“Yes, that is an offence. But let me give a little clarification on that. It means that if you leave the vehicle unattended with the engine on and an officer passes by, his job then is to issue a ticket for that violation.”

While that violation will lighten the driver’s pocket by twenty-five dollars, he or she will have to shell out double that amount for obstructing pedestrians.

Kent Gabb

“Yes, you have some people who park their vehicles on the pedestrian cross walks and thereby impeding their flow and making it a very unsafe move for them to have to go into the carriage way to cross the street. And also the sidewalks that are designed for the pedestrian to walk and people park their car in that area, that’s a violation also.”

The motor vehicles and road traffic regulations 2003 were signed into law at the end of November and will come into force at midnight tonight. Gabb says that while the initial shock of the increased fines will take some getting used to, in the long run the improved regulations will make our streets safer.

Kent Gabb

“Our people are well trained. We have given them all the necessary things they need to carry out the enforcement of these violations.”

Patrick Jones

“Do you expect any resistance as a result of these new rules and the increased fines?”

Kent Gabb

“I don’t see it happening. Maybe some people might not be willing to go in their pocket and pay some of these fines, but they should not worry about that if they will comply with the rules and regulations. It is compliance we want.”

From broken lights, to illegal parking to improperly seated passengers on Albert Street this morning, News 5 documented no less than ten offences that would have kept traffic officers and their ticket books busy.

Kent Gabb

“The ticket is an automatic summons now whereby you can either pay or appear. If you believe that you are wrong, that you have erred in compliance of the law, then you just go to the appropriate place, pay your fine and that matter is over. If you don’t within fifteen days time, then you will have to go to court and deal with the matter.”

And in a country where driving habits are not among the best, the people charged with enforcing the beefed up regulations will no doubt be in for a real challenge.

Patrick Jones

“Mr. Gabb what will you say to people who will ultimately say that these increased fees is just a way for the City Council, and by extension government, to earn more money?”

Kent Gabb

“I would want to think that that would be a misconception. That’s not it at all. We want compliance. If we get compliance, we won’t get any money. If you break the law then you will have to pay that fine.”

Patrick Jones, for News 5.

Also coming into effect on Thursday is legislation authorizing the use of radar guns by police and traffic officers.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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