THE Legislative Assembly has unanimously passed the Traffic Bill 2020 with amendments including a new requirement for drivers and front seat passengers to wear seat belts.
The Bill for the first time in Tonga’s history makes it an offence not to wear a seat belt for front seat passengers but this does not apply to children under 12 years old.
Punishment is a fine not exceeding $500.
The Bill also introduced the use of car seats for baby. The Hon. Minister of Infrastructure, Hon. ‘Akosita Lavulavu told Parliament, the use of baby car seats will be enforced later.
The Traffic Bill also allows Tongan living overseas to use their overseas driver’s licenses to drive in Tonga for a one-year period
The new Bill also instructed that children are not allowed to be seen hanging their heads or any parts of their body out of the window.
Drivers are also prohibited to seat child on lap while driving. It also makes it an offence to drive and use a mobile phone.
The House also passed the Road Bill 2020 which covers the building, maintenance and protection of public roads as a Government asset.
In her brief introductory of the Roads Bill 2020, the Hon. Minister of Infrastructure ‘Akosita Lavulavu said the existing Road Act was passed in 1920 and was last amended in 1988. It is a century old Act and highlighted the need for roads pavement throughout Tonga including pothole patching and cover the road’s surface with tarmac.
Hon. Lavulavu said the Hon. Prime Minister and his Cabinet firmly believe this important Bill will further strengthen their commitment to conduct road construction and for its completion in 2024. This proposed legislation will also assist the Ministry to achieve better results going forward.
The Ministry of Infrastructure has been reviewing the current Roads Bill in conjunction with its efforts to improve roads in Tonga.
The Bill also gives the Hon. Finance Minister the authority to set up a separate Roads Maintenance Funds under Treasury where money from vehicle registration and grants for road work go directly towards routine road maintenance.
It also instructed anyone who uses or works on the road and likely to affect it, must apply for a permit. A condition of the permit is that they must repair the road afterwards to the Ministry’s standards. It is also emphasised that a fine of up to $100,000 for offenders if found guilty of operating without a permit.
Heavy vehicles with metal non-rubber wheels are also prohibited to run on tar sealed roads and large vehicles such as semi-trailers with containers running on certain roads, without a permit.
The Bill prescribes the standards for road design and construction standards. This includes execution of works within the public road, permission for occupation, standards and conditions of the works.
The Bill also requires adjacent landowners to keep their roadside vegetation and overhanging trees from damaging the integrity of the roads or affect safety in road use.
New offences in the Bill also includes illegally leaving things on the road such as shipping containers left on the roadside causing damage to the road, but also becoming a safety issue.