MICHAEL MODESTE AND MARCUS MOSES

In May this year new traffic laws came into effect. In this and the next article we look at some of these reforms.

Demerit Point System

A Demerit Points System has been introduced which allocates demerit points to a person’s driving record for certain traffic violations and offences. The points are electronically calculated, stored and monitored by the Licensing Authority of Trinidad and Tobago through the Demerit Points Register.

How It Works

Each driver starts with zero demerit points on their driving permit. Where a person commits a traffic violation that carries demerit points, he must pay the prescribed fine and the number of demerit points for that violation is added to their driving permit record.

A person who commits two or more traffic violations is required to pay the prescribed fines for both or all violations, but only the violation that carries the highest number of demerit points would be added to their driving record. However, where violations include the offences of failure to comply with a traffic light signal or exceeding the speed limit, the demerit points for all the offences would be added.

Removal of Demerit Points

If after 2 years, a person who has demerit points recorded on their driving permit does not incur any additional points, these points would be automatically removed from their record and they will start over at zero.

Disqualification of Driver’s Permit

Depending on the number of points accumulated over a period, a driver may have his or her driving permit suspended. Drivers are categorised into two groups for this purpose: (1) newly licensed drivers (persons who hold a driving permit for less than 12 months); and (2) experienced drivers (persons who hold a driving permit for more than 12 months).

For newly licensed drivers, their permit will be suspended on the accumulation of 7 or more demerit points within a period of 12 months. For experienced drivers, their permit will be suspended on the accumulation, within a three-year period, of:

(i) 10 to 13 demerit points for 6 months;

(ii) 14 to 19 demerit points for 1 year; or

(iii) 20 or more demerit points for a period of 2 years.

Notice of Disqualification

The Licensing Authority must inform the person of its intention to disqualify their permit. Where a person fails to provide a good reason why their permit should not be disqualified, a written notice of disqualification will then be sent by the Authority, which takes effect 14 days after the person receives the notice. A person may appeal the Authority’s decision to disqualify their driver’s permit to a Magistrates’ Court within 14 days of receiving the notice.

A person must additionally hand over their driver’s permit to the Licensing Authority within 14 days of receiving the notice of disqualification. Failure to do so may result in a fine of $5000 and an additional disqualification period of 1 year.

Reissue of Driver’s Permit

At the end of the disqualification period, a person can apply to the Licensing Authority to have his permit reissued. A person must participate in a driver’s rehabilitation programme approved by the Authority, pass a driving and regulation test, and pay the prescribed fee for the reissue of the permit.

Co-ordinator: Roshan Ramcharitar.

This column is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should consult a qualified legal adviser.

The attached table shows the demerit points or fixed penalties attached to some common traffic violations and offences.

Traffic Violation/OffenceRegulationFixed Penalty ($)  Demerit Points
Defaced or defective identification plate Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Chap. 48:50, Regulation 7450.003
Failing to comply with a traffic light signal Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Chap. 48:50, section 66A
1,000.003
Number of passengers to be carried not printed on the right front door of a taxi Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Chap. 48:50, Regulation 17(a)
300.00
Obstructing overtaking traffic Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Chap. 48:50, Regulation 38, Rule 5(4)
1,000.003
Playing a musical or noisy instrument in a vehicle without permission of the Licensing Authority
Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Chap. 48:50, Regulation 491,000.00
Exceeding the specified speed limit
by 1 to 9 km per hour
by 10 to 20 km per hour
by 21 to 30 km per hour
by 31 km or more per hour
Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Chap. 48:50, section 62(1) 1,000.00
1,500.00
2,000.00 3,000.00
0
2
4
6
Failure to produce a vehicle for inspection/Driving a vehicle without a valid inspection sticker and certificate
Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Chap. 48:50, Regulation 27(11)1,000.009
Failure to submit breath analysis or willful alternation of concentration of alcohol in his breath or blood Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Chap. 48:50, section 70C 14
Riding a Motorcycle without a safety helmetMotor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Chap. 48:50, section 43C (1)
1,000.004
Driving while holding or using a handheld mobile device  Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Mobile Devices) Regulations, Chap. 48:50, Regulation 4