Review confirms Highway Traffic Act needs overhaul

Teresa Wright
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The province's Highway Traffic Act is outdated, inconsistent, badly organized and needs a complete overhaul, according to an internal government report obtained by The Guardian.
The report outlines the results of a review done of the act at the request of Transportation Minister Ron MacKinley.
MacKinley says he was in a coffee shop one morning, talking to some police officers, and they told him of difficulties the act has caused them in performing their duties.
He commissioned the review, which included stakeholder input from government officials who deal with the act, Crown prosecutors and police officers Islandwide who must interpret the act to lay charges and bring violators to court.
The review confirmed the concerns raised by the officers. It points to major problems in the organization, consistency and clarity of the act and that these problems have led to difficulties in charges being laid and in courts dismissing charges.
"The most strongly expressed concern came from RCMP, Summerside Police and Charlottetown Police, who stated that the act's ambiguity affects their ability to effectively complete their duties and lay charges," the report states.
"Officers state that they often spend time on the side of the road consulting with dispatch to determine the exact meaning of a section so that they lay the most appropriate charge."
The Highway Traffic Act (HTA) is a huge piece of legislation at 164 pages. It also has 33 regulations and references 23 other P.E.I. acts.
It was generally stated in the review the HTA is too lengthy and covers too many topics that reach beyond those strictly related to the operation of motor vehicles, such as bicycles and dealers.
Many of the penalties for violators are scattered throughout the act and its regulations. This makes it almost impossible to find what you're looking for.
"Unless someone has an intimate working knowledge of the HTA, they might not be aware that particular content might be found in different parts," the review states.
Each legislative session for the past number of years, the HTA is amended at least twice. Many of the problems with organization and structure are attributed to the frequency of these amendments.
It was also suggested that more plain language should be used to improve clarity.
"The overly complicated wording can lend to varying interpretations of the same sections," the review states.
MacKinley says he has taken these concerns to heart. He plans to complete a comprehensive update of the act.
"We're going to do an overhaul and put it into better language and try to come up with one act that's streamlined," MacKinley said.
"We spend millions on our RCMP every year. We don't want them sitting by the side of the road - through no fault of their own - trying to find the right charges."
Other provinces have already undertaken similar reviews and updates of their highway laws. Nova Scotia is currently in the midst of a multi-year project to complete a full rewrite and consolidation of its Highway Traffic Act.
MacKinley says he would like to do the same thing here, but instead of hiring an expensive consultant and years before completion, MacKinley said he plans to put together a team of department employees and include those stakeholders involved in the initial review.
He said he hopes to have a newer and better HTA ready by next spring.

Organizations: RCMP, The Guardian

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • simple solution
    June 21, 2010 - 20:22

    Every piece of PEI legislation is a laughable farce because we have uneducated buffoons like Ron MacKinley, Mike Currie, Robert Vessey, Jim Bagnall, etc. crafting and modifying the laws of this province.

    How many lawyers are there in our current legislature?

    Not one.

    You get what you pay for.

    In this case, our politicians were elected because we didn't want canned pop.

    'Nuff said.

  • From Charlottetown
    June 21, 2010 - 20:18

    Funny. The first sentence of this article refers not only to the Highway Traffic Act, but also perfectly describes Ronnie MacKinley himself.

    Coincedence?

  • Smarten Up
    June 21, 2010 - 19:58

    The Act is a problem now because it was written by people that had no experience.

    This is history repeating itself.

    Hire the experts and correct this problem now. You messing it up further will result in the next gov't (taxpaper) having to hire them anway to fix what your about to do.

  • BANNIE
    June 21, 2010 - 19:56

    lets hope mckinley does a better job on
    the hwy,citys rewrite than putting round
    abouts where they aren't needed ,putting
    them in front of businesses where people can't get get at them with out going blocks out of their way having to
    double back or not bother ,