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 A Traffic Law that Defies Logic

A Traffic Law that Defies Logic

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By Neela Ramsundar

WITH the oil and gas boom a thing of the past, this country had to adapt to finding new ways of generating revenue to pay for public services.

The state had a lightbulb moment, put certain laws into effect saying it’s for traffic safety, bumped up the fines to eyebrow raising figures and started a massive enforcement campaign.

One of those traffic laws that defy logic is this – the driver getting issued a ticket when an adult front seat passenger is found not wearing his or her seatbelt. Yup, you read that right.

This brilliant law is found under section 43C(1A) of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Chapter 48:50.
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A driver found in violation of this section without “reasonable excuse” is immediately issued a fixed penalty notice in the sum of $1,000 and once paid, gets four demerit points.

Now, the act does have a clause which allows the police officer to ticket the actual person committing the objectionable act of not wearing the seatbelt – that is, the front seat passenger himself. (See section 43C(1) of the Act). So the Police have a choice whom they choose to ticket. If they choose to ticket the driver, well, that’s their prerogative! The law permits them to do that.
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In my mind, I can understand if the passenger is not an adult, but a minor why it makes sense to ticket the driver. (A minor is a person under the age of 18 years of age, but in this case, I will use under 17 years of age, as 17 years is the age when we are allowed to legally drive cars in this country and is also the age used in the Act to ticket front seat passengers).

The reason is that minors are generally not considered to be of age to make their own decisions and should be under the supervision of someone. In this case, the natural assumption would be that the driver is responsible for the minor, and should be held responsible via the ticket if the minor front seat passenger is not wearing his or her seatbelt.
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What boggles the mind is trying to understand how the State considers it fair to ticket the driver, when an adult passenger is the one not wearing their seatbelt. Think about it. As a driver, do you always check to make sure that your adult front seat passenger is wearing their seatbelt before you drive off? If you said no, is it because you did not check because they are an adult and they are supposed to know to do that? Did you naturally assume if a police officer found them not wearing their seat belt, they would be ticketed and not you?

As I understand it, the principle behind ticketing the driver instead of the adult front seat passenger is that the driver should not be driving the car when the front seat passenger is not buckled up.
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I am not a fan of the Peter paying for Paul principle. Every State should try as best it can to make laws that make sense and appear to be fair. If the front seat passenger is an adult person, the fairest action appears to be to ticket the actual violator.

As far as I am concerned, this is another one of those laws that simply defy logic and ought to be removed from the law books. Be safe Trinidad and Tobago!

Copyright © 2020 Neela Ramsundar, LL.B (HONS), L.E.C is a Civil Litigation Attorney at Law & Certified Mediator.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general informative purposes only. It does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. For legal advice on your specific situation, please contact an Attorney-at-Law of your choosing directly. Liability for any loss or damage of any kind whatsoever allegedly incurred a consequence of using content in this article is thus hereby excluded to the fullest extent permitted by law.

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