Police check motorists during roadblock. Photo: TTPS
THE TTPS (Trinidad and Tobago Police Service) frequently issues press releases lauding the outcome of their road blocks exercises.
You’ll usually find a summary of the traffic violations they caught. Right now, citizens are being severely punished for matters such as:
- Defaced or defective identification plates ($450 fine and three demerit points);
- Vehicle with defective fittings ($450 fine and three demerit points);
- Vehicle without tail (brake) lights ($1,000 fine and three demerits points);
- Use of vehicle with defective or no windshield wiper ($300 fine and two demerit points).
What do all of these violations have in common?
These are more or less maintenance issues that can crop up anytime. It’s possible the problem occurred without the driver even being aware something was wrong. Or because the problem may have happened recently, the unlucky driver just didn’t get an opportunity to rectify the issue before becoming trapped in a TTPS road block.
Take your brake lights, for instance. Some vehicles are outfitted with a sensor which detects when a brake light is no longer working and immediately notifies the driver.
However, this is not standard in all vehicles. Without that sensor, when a brake light fails, unless someone pulls up alongside shouting: “Yuh brake light nah wukin!,” you will not know.
In circumstances like these, I am hard pressed to agree that giving the owner of the car a fine and demerit points without an opportunity to fix the problem first, is reasonable or fair.
The TTPS has no discretion in the matter, other than letting you off the hook. But if caught in a road exercise, your chances of being let off with a warning may be as good as winning the next lotto jackpot.
Elsewhere in the world, the authorities have brilliantly given their police officers the discretion to issue Fix-It Notices. These notices are known by other names too, such as a Defective Equipment Warnings or Defect Notices.
The concept behind these notices is a marvellously simple one. Using the same failed brake light example, generally what happens is this:
- You are issued a Fix-It Notice advising you that your brake light is not working.
- The notice specifies you have a grace period of a certain number of days to fix it and get the repair work signed off by an authorised person.
- If you don’t comply within that time, the fine and/or demerit points kicks in. You may also get another violation tacked on for failure to comply.
- If you do repair it, there’s no penalty.
Apart from the fines, under the current law, demerit points stay on your driving permit record for two years, if no further points are accumulated. If you rack up a minimum of ten demerit points over a three-year period, you could be suspended from driving for six months.
In some cases, you could be permanently suspended. Being deprived of the right to drive is a very serious consequence for breach of these types of violations.
As the saying goes: “Common sense often makes good law” (William O. Douglas). It makes complete sense to give our citizens the opportunity to first fix some of these motor vehicle violations and to only penalize them if they don’t. It’s seems fair and the right thing to do.
And as Edmund Burke said: “Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.”
So why isn’t motor Vehicle Fix-It notices part of our law? Be safe Trinidad and Tobago.
Copyright © 2021 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.