Proposed new road traffic laws were further delayed last week, after finally returning to Legislative Council following a five-month hiatus.
Although the Road Traffic Legislation (Amendment) Bill was granted a seconded reading by the upper chamber before the summer recess, it has taken until December for MLCs to look at any of the clauses, while equality issues were investigated.
At last week’s sitting, the Bill was placed down for the clauses stage, but only six were dealt with.
Department of Infrastructure member Marlene Maska explained: ’Much time and hard work has been devoted to improving aspects of this Bill.
’Certain clauses relating to equality matters are still being refined.’
She said she planned to return with the rest of the Bill in January.
’I would like to think that we are nearly at the point where we have a meeting of conditions and minds on those equality matters.’
Mrs Maska also said that, since the Bill reappeared on the agenda for consideration, a number of technical amendments and questions had arisen ’which do require clarity, further scrutiny and investigation’.
To make the Bill ’appropriate for use’ she asked to move just a handful of clauses at last week’s sitting, with all others to be dealt with at a later sitting.
The clauses approved at last week’s sitting included an update of the provision to the offence of causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs. It introduces a new basis for the offence to account for the presence in the body of a specified controlled drug at a proportion exceeding prescribed limit for that drug.
A new offence of driving, attempting to drive or being in charge of a vehicle while having an excessive amount of a specified control drug in their system. It specifies a limit for each drug, along with defences available to anyone accused of the offence.
The Bill, which has already been through the House of Keys, aims to improve the laws dealing with dangerous and irresponsible driving, streamline the enforcement of fines and compensation, improve the law on vehicle construction - including for their use by disabled people, update laws on driving licences and driving bans, and give police and vehicle examiners greater investigatory powers to investigate motoring crimes.
Those clauses were all approved.
One of the issues raised previously in Legislative Council was concern about the regulations concerning disability access to vehicles, including whether they were appropriate and enforceable.
Those concerns were acknowledged at the June 30 sitting of Legislative Council when the clauses stage of scrutiny was first deferred.
At the end of last month, the government announced a consultation on equality for disabled passengers wanting to use taxis and private hire vehicles, referencing proposed changes in the Bill.
The government said the proposed changes placed obligations on drivers of designated wheelchair-accessible vehicles and could include assisting the wheelchair into or out of the vehicle and making no additional charge for carrying a wheelchair user.
In what may be an acknowledgement of the continuing row over the lack of access to buses for use of certain types of mobility scooter, the government also announced: ’The consultation is the first in a series planned over the coming months concerning public transport services and includes an open question towards the end to enable respondents to raise any issues that concern them.’