By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA- WEDNESDAY 20 MARCH 2019: The Government has moved to ensure that boy car racing is legally categorized as an offence, hence the amendment to the Road Traffic Amendment Bill 2019.
The Bill went through the first and second readings in Parliament yesterday. The Minister for Works Infrastructure and Transport (MWIT), Papalii Niko Lee-Hang said the amendment to the Principal Act 1960 is to include the criminalisation of car racings, addition of new parts to the car to increase speed, and to give the authority to either Land Transport Authority (LTA) or police officials to take the car from its owner on the spot.
“The main reason behind the amendment is the safety of the public,” said Papalii.
The legislation stems from a recent court case against car racers and the death of a college student where car racers paid tribute at his funeral procession by burning their race cars tyres on public roads prompting public complaints.
When the Bill was open for debate, several Members of Parliament took to the floor and suggested more areas that need be included in the final legislation.
Such areas include separating the penalty of “racing causing injuries from racing causing death.”
The suggested penalty in the Committees report for both offences is a fine no more than 20 units and a prison term not exceeding 5 years.
MP for Anoama’a West Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo suggested a seven year imprisonment term for racing causing death.
“Authority should be given to the police or LTA not only to take the car off the owner on the spot, but dismantle it,” he added.
He believes that any additions to the car to increase the speed is illegal and LTA should be vigilant in checking these before issuing a license for the car.
Other issues include the addition of fancy lights and spotlights to the car, and also spilling diesel on the road for the car to spin around in a fast pace.
Authorised Vehicles in Time Of Emergencies
MP for Salega West Olo Fiti suggested that there should be a law to allow private cars owners to take casualties to the hospital in times of emergencies.
Often in time of accidents, the first people to assist the victims are those close to where the incident happen, and are also the first to respond by helping rush victims to the hospital.
Legalise Car Racing As A Sport
MP Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao suggested that car racing be properly organized as a sport and an event given the popularity of previous car shows held during national days such as the Independence celebrations.
Whilst he supported the amendment for public safety, he said car racing could be organized as an event such as Game Fishing Games and Horse Racing.
“The only wrong here is using the public roads to race which has resulted in several deaths,” said Laauli. He suggested having a special place for this event to take place which was not supported by the Prime Minister.
LTA & Police Continuous Dispute Over Authority
MP for Faleata West, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi wanted the amendment to pinpoint exactly the Government agency with the authority to execute the road laws.
Before the dispute, Police were the only ones with the authority to issue tickets, confiscate or impound cars, but LTA has been given the same authority which is causing not only confusion but frustration from the public.
The Minister of LTA took note of the issues raised and said while some of the issue are already under regulation, he assured Parliament that they will look into new issues raised.