House: parking fines set to increase
Parking fines are set to rise from $50 to $75 thanks to new legislation, while loopholes allowing non-payment will also be closed.
Shawn Crockwell, the Minister of Tourism Development and Transport, put forward his plans at the House of Assembly on Wednesday evening.
Mr Crockwell argued that, since previous handheld ticket-issuing devices became obsolete four years ago, inefficient manual ticketing procedures had allowed many offending motorists to “slip through the system without punishment”.
With the introduction of a new automated system, he added, citations would automatically upload to a central database, ensuring a vastly improved success rate.
Elsewhere in the new rules, individuals will be given seven days to pay the $75 parking fine. If they fail to do so, the charge will rise to $100 and they will be summoned to appear in court, where they could ultimately be fined $150.
“It's no secret that some motorists have racked up countless parking notices without paying the penalty, as a result of little to no incentive to pay the fines,” said Mr Crockwell.
“With these amendments, this will become a behaviour consigned to history.”
The bill was criticised by some members of the Progressive Labour Party.
“In closing a loophole, we're opening up a proverbial can of worms,” said Lawrence Scott, the Shadow Minister of Transport, who argued that people who accidentally parked illegally before leaving the Island could face excessive punishment.
PLP backbencher Walton Brown suggested that an easy way to ensure motorists pay their parking tickets would be to link them to vehicle relicensing. Under his plan, those with outstanding tickets would not be able to re-license their vehicles until their fines are paid off.
Derrick Burgess was among the Opposition members wary of raising the fine — although he advocated a stronger system to convince people to pay quickly and in full. He said: “Leave the fee at $50, and then if one doesn't pay within seven days then take it to $300. If that's not paid, you double it, and then after that you go to court. I guarantee you, most people would pay that $50 within seven days.”
Mr Burgess also expressed his belief that the courts shouldn't be involved in parking fines at all.
“These fees aren't going to pay for the court costs. All you're going to create is a backlog, and there should never be a court backlog because of parking tickets,” he said.
Mr Crockwell stood firm over the fine increase, explaining that the $50 punishment had remained unchanged since 1998 and that the additional charge had been recommended by police.
Responding to suggestions that the move would negatively affect struggling Bermudians, he added: “Penalties are supposed to hurt. That is the purpose of a penalty.
“Don't park illegally and you will never have to pay it.”
The act will come into operation at an unspecified date, when the minister makes an announcement in The Royal Gazette.
The Traffic Offences Procedure Amendment and Validation Act was passed by the Senate yesterday afternoon.