Two Months In: Belizeans Grapple with New Seatbelt and Phone Laws

Two Months In: Belizeans Grapple with New Seatbelt and Phone Laws

It has been two months now since the seatbelt and phone laws have taken effect across the country.  With Belize being a laid back society when it comes to traffic laws and regulations, many residents are having a hard time adjusting to the new regulations.  In an interview with Minister of Transport, Rodwell Ferguson, there has been push back from pockets of society.  He did say, however, that if the enforcement is consistent, the public will comply.

Rodwell Ferguson, Minister of Transport: “Well the public recognizes that we’re trying to save lives and if you enforce the seatbelt policy then they might live longer. At least when they call on the radio stations in the morning and they complain about the seatbelt policy then the media will rebut them and say it’s for your own safety. So slowly Belizeans are going to understand it is important to secure your own life. And so as the minister responsible it is every year we have so many road accidents so we are trying to mitigate the amount of road accidents in the country. Road accidents is the second larges cause of death in the country of Belize, it might be the first. So we’re trying to reduce that for 2024. We already employ the traffic wardens and so by keeping them busy we ensure that they try to make sure that the people abide by the law of the land because many times we enact legislation and pass laws and then it is on the wayside. But now we are making sure that we enforce it for the livelihood of the Belizean people.”

As traffic wardens and police are enforcing the laws, some officers are reportedly using this exercise to shake down motorists caught without their seatbelts. Over the weekend, a man traveling on the Cristo Rey Road in the Cayo District was reportedly extorted by a cop. Today, Commissioner of Police Chester Williams commented on the matter and stated that the police will be requesting a change in the penalty for the offense.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “The complaint from Cristo Rey Road had to do with the issue of seatbelt and we will be lobbying to government or parliament to see how we can get the seatbelt law a ticketing offense as opposed to an arrestable offense. To arrest a person for a seatbelt is extremely tedious, it’s a lengthy process. So if we can make it a ticketable offense it is easier for both the offender and the police officers because when we have to remove officers from the street to come and charge someone for seatbelt we leave the street open because the police officers could be out there patrolling preventing crime and we have to be inside the station processing a person to charge them for seatbelt. So just as we have the traffic offenses that are ticketable we will ask that the seatbelt offense is a ticketed one as well. It won’t stop it, it may minimize it because I think that a person would feel more at ease getting a ticket than being arrested. Being arrested is more coercive in nature and so people will more avoid being arrested that getting a ticket so we’re hoping that that’s going to negate the issue to some extent.”

The amendments do make provision for drivers to use the phone with the aid of hands-free devices while driving.

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