JIS – Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Dr Morais Guy, said a provision is to be added to the Road Traffic Act to prohibit smoking of ganja while driving.
He said if a person smokes ganja while driving or in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, he or she would be fined J$10,000.
“We feel that we have the obligation and the responsibility to ensure that people who are driving should not be smoking at the same time,” Dr Guy said in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (June 30).
He was closing the debate on the report of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on the Road Traffic Act, which was adopted.
The Act seeks to, among other things, implement more stringent regulations to govern the use of the nation’s roadways.
In his contribution to the debate, Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson, noted that impaired driving due to alcohol, and other drugs, such as ganja, must be addressed under the Bill.
“Research shows that cannabis impairs cognitive and psychomotor skills and a zero tolerance level should be adopted that prohibits the presence of any amount of drugs in the blood while driving,” he said.
He noted that many countries, such as the United States of America (USA), have adopted such measures.
Dr Ferguson said the passage of an improved road safety Bill is a significant step towards the protection of road users.
“The enforcement of comprehensive and clear legislation with appropriate penalties, and accompanied by public awareness campaigns, is a critical factor in reducing road traffic injuries and deaths associated with speed, drunk driving, and the non-use of occupant protection measures, such as, helmets, seat belts, and child restraints. Road traffic injuries are preventable,” he said.
In 2013, there were 11,372 persons treated at accident and emergency departments in public hospitals (except Kingston Public Hospital and the University Hospital of the West Indies) due to road traffic crashes.
Eighty-seven per cent of those treated were in the 10 to 44 age group, with 20 to 29-year-olds counting for the majority of victims at 28 per cent.