PM slams brakes on traffic fine defaulters

politics March 23, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

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Mixed reaction as Prayut uses Article 44 to bar registration of vehicles involved in violations until penalties paid



PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha’s latest Article 44 order barring traffic-fine dodgers from renewing their annual vehicle registration has become another contentious issue for both critics and supporters.

With as many as 86 per cent of the 680,000 traffic tickets unpaid over the past seven months, authorities believed it is necessary for the premier to exercise his sweeping power to enforce the law on fine dodgers.

Supporters said the unique measure was required as vehicle owners would be forced to pay all fines for violation of traffic regulations before they could renew their annual vehicle registration.

In addition, the latest Article 44 order requires all vehicle passengers to fasten their seat belts while the vehicle is in motion.

Critics, however, said the premier’s sweeping power under Article 44 of the interim charter should not be used frequently and randomly as in this case where existing laws are adequate to achieve results.

According to the latest Article 44 order, traffic police officers will notify law-violating motorists that they have to pay a fine within 15 days of the tickets being issued. Such notices will be sent by post if violators are not present at the time of violations.

Police will then pass on the names of the violators who fail to pay fines on time to the local land transport office, which is responsible for renewing vehicle registrations annually.

By then, violators have another 30 days to pay the fines.

During this 30-day period, a document indicating a pending car-registration tax payment will be issued for motorists to carry. Unless the fines are settled, owners will not be able to renew their vehicle registration, effectively being barred from public roads.

Under the Article 44 order, the Department of Land Transport will get 5 per cent of each traffic fine and pass on the rest of the fine money to traffic police. The order also authorises traffic police to tow away or lock the wheels of vehicles parked in prohibited spots and vehicle owners must pay the cost of such actions as well as the vehicle parking cost if applicable.

Pol Lt-General Wittaya Prayongphun, the assistant national police chief, said only a few motorists paid their fines after receiving tickets for violation of traffic laws as evidenced by the latest statistics showing only 11 per cent of of the 680,000 fine tickets issued from September 2016 to the present were paid.

As a result, the country’s traffic laws and enforcement are not effective, prompting the government to turn to the new measure, which would be enforced in cooperation with land transport officials responsible for renewing vehicle registration.

In a related development, another order under Article 44 was also issued to improve the safety of vans used for public transportation.

The order, published in the Royal Gazette on Wednesday, authorised Land Transport Department officials to revoke or suspend the use of transport vans or the public transport licence for up to six months if anaccident stems from van driver exceeding legal speed limit, or the driver worked beyond the legal limit of driving hours; failure to prevent van driver from using the vehicle for illegal activities; failure to prevent van driver/fare collector from overcharging customers.