Everyone agrees that the Traffic Law needed to be changed and it has been. But with any new law comes Regulations, which are the linchpin in enforcing the laws.
The Regulations involved have brought about very complex legal issues that involve a multi-department approach, including Attorney General Mr. Samuel Bulgin, the Legal Department, along with the Department of Vehicle and Drivers? Licensing (DVDL) and the Ministry of District Administration, Works, Lands and Agriculture (DAWL&A). In addition, the Regulations had to be researched by looking at other jurisdictions such as United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean to examine electric vehicle legislation.
?The Regulations are a complex set of documents consisting of 12 separate sections on the protocols and procedures that interpret the law. These range from fines, speed limits, testing of drivers and vehicles and the road code.? These have lagged behind for many years with piecemeal and/or minor updates that left them fragmented and out-of-touch,? Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for DVDL Hon. Juliana O?Connor-Connolly said.
The registration and licensing of electric vehicles was an intricate process and required extensive research on many issues including the proper classification of vehicles and arriving at a universal, scientific formula to accurately record the kilowatts per hour for the engine output, rather than the usual recording in horse power or cubic centimeters for combustible engines.
Director of DVDL David Dixon reported that proper classification was just one of the issues evaluated. Public safety has also been of paramount concern: ?Some electric cars have a different mechanical architecture to the typical vehicle with a combustion engine; therefore, a new protocol by our first responders had to take into consideration when dealing with accident.?
?Electric shock is an area of particular concern for responders. Today?s popular hybrids include batteries that surge with 500 volts of electricity, which is enough to cause serious injury or death. Though most cabling for such systems is colored orange for easy discovery, the practice isn?t followed by all manufacturers. The batteries? location, typically in the trunk, might also be unknown to responders. Another area of concern is fire. So while the demand for hybrid and electric vehicles continues to grow, it?s important for first responders to understand what informational resources are available to us and it is our job to ensure that everything falls in line,? he explained.
The importance of categories
The categories of electric vehicles as proposed by the Traffic (Categorization and Grouping) Regulations, 2012 will allow the regular electric vehicles that are capable of exceeding 30 miles per hour to be registered and licensed as ordinary vehicles (alongside motor cars and trucks, etc), while those that are not capable of exceeding 30 miles per hour will be classified as ?special electric vehicle? according to section 2 Definition of the Traffic Law, 2011. Accordingly, the department?s register of vehicles is being modified and updated to accommodate the new categories.
Under Part 5 of the Law, these special electric vehicles can only be used in school zones or where the speed zone is less than 30 miles per hour. The rationale for not allowing these special electric vehicles, which are commonly referred to in the motor trade industry as ?low speed vehicles? or ?neighborhood electric vehicles?, is that there is significant safety concern to its occupants and the motoring g public.
According to the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these vehicles were not manufactured or designed for highway use where the imposed speed limit is 50 miles per hour, but rather for school or university campuses, hospitals, parking lots, and as the name suggests, neighbourhoods, where the speed limit is less than 25 or 30 miles per hour. These vehicles do not have crash protection or side impact bars, and in some instances, do not have doors.
Special electric vehicles operating in speed zones of 40 or 50 miles per hour, may be committing an offence of obstructing traffic, while moving contrary to section 82(q) and 60(i) Traffic Law (2003 Revision). The section states, ?It is the duty of every person driving any kind of vehicle upon a road ? ?to avoid obstructing other vehicles whether the vehicle under control is moving or stationary. This is a Traffic Ticket offence under The Traffic Ticket Regulations (1999 Revision).
Hon. Juliana O?Connor-Connolly, Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for Department of DVDL said: ?We understand that some members of the public are very anxious to purchase their electrical vehicle and our technocrats are working hard to ensure that all of the regulations are done properly and in a timely manner.?
?I am pleased to report that only one of the 12 sections of the regulations, along with the road code, is left to be completed. My team and I are striving for the implementation of the law and regulations as soon as possible. I am committed to see this project through,? she promised.
The history of the Traffic Law
In August 2011, the department received a legal opinion from the Legal Department on the issue of registering and licensing of fully electric vehicles. The Attorney General?s Chambers advised that the Traffic Law of the Cayman Islands, which has been in existence for a number of years, never contemplated nor made any provision for the advancement in engineering and technology which has seen the advent of electric cars and other types of vehicles. Therefore, it became necessary to amend the Traffic Law and associated regulations to take into account these developments as well as recent judicial case law.
We are all aware that the registration and licensing of electric vehicles in the Cayman Islands has been a popular and topical issue over the years.? However, the Department of Vehicle and Drivers? Licensing, together with the Ministry of DAWL &A, has been proactive over the years in addressing the issue and putting in place the proper legislation.
In fact, we also had to change the Motor Vehicle Insurance (Third Place Risk) Law (2011) that allowed electric vehicles to be insurable. Without this minor but very important change to the legislation as well. The commencement of the law can only be issued after the Traffic Regulations have also been considered and approved by Cabinet. Indeed, this overarching approach also had Government consider a law pertaining to these vehicles outside of the ambit of the Ministry of DAWLA. For instance, by working with the Ministry of Finance, import duties on hybrid and fully electric vehicles will be reduced significantly in an effort to promote these types of vehicles.? This should result in lower gas costs to owners and a greener, cleaner environment.
The Government and Minister responsible for vehicle licensing, Hon. Juliana O?Connor-Connolly took the opportunity to have a comprehensive approach to updating the Traffic Law, by modernising both the law and regulations simultaneously
The Ministry and Department have communicated over the years to various car dealers, on the Island, that a fully electric vehicle could not be registered and licensed due to the technical components of the vehicles. Both the Ministry and Department have periodically issued updates on the progress of the legislation so that no one would prematurely import the vehicles that could not be licensed as yet.