Our roadways are filled with hundreds of motorists all with different agendas and places to go. There is, however, one thing that most motorists have in common when trying to do business in the corporate area or downtown Kingston, and that is, difficulty finding a parking spot. This process can be grueling, tiring and may seem endless, sometimes leaving you with no alternative but to park some distance away from your destination. The effect of not being able to find parking is not only felt by road users but also by business operators as potential customers may opt not to visit a particular business place if finding a parking space becomes too much of a hassle. Despite this daunting process, we must ensure that we do not give into the temptation of parking in prohibited or restricted areas. The consequences attached to breaking this law can be expensive, inconvenient and time consuming.
No parking zones are often identified by visible signs, marks or yellow painting along sidewalks. The Road Traffic Act stipulates that traffic signs which include marks on the surface of the road shall be of a prescribed size, colour, and type, except where the road authority authorizes otherwise. These specifications are noted in The Road Traffic Regulations. The Regulations state that signs of such nature ought to have the letters on the sign in white and the background in red with white borders. The Regulations go as far as to indicate the appropriate size for each sign, which may be varied by the Road Authority in accordance with the circumstances. The details provided in the Regulations are clear indicators that the draftsmen made the extra effort to ensure that these signs would be clearly visible and uniformed for easy recognition by road users.
Generally, parking offences are of strict liability, which means that you do not have to intend to commit the offence. For instance, if you parked in a “No Parking” zone, the fact that you did not see the sign would not be a defence. That said, every prohibited area ought to be clearly identified in conformity with the regulations. But what happens when the sign is not clearly visible, or is not made in conformity with the Regulations? Will the motorist be prosecuted for an offence? The law in this area is not as clear cut as one would think. There are authorities that seem to indicate that no offence may be committed where a sign is not clearly visible or does not conform to the appropriate specifications. This approach seems to be fair and logical, but the courts have always been mindful to examine the circumstances in each and every case.
For example a motorist may be found guilty of a traffic offence when he or she does not obey a traffic sign, even if that sign does not completely conform to the regulated specifications. Once the deviation is one that is trivial or immaterial for its purpose, the courts will have no difficulty finding the motorist guilty of the offence. A sign that is only partially visible or insufficiently defaced will not provide a motorist with a plausible defence from prosecution.
The Road Traffic Act also gives the KSAC and the Parish Councils the power to declare specific areas as restricted for the purpose of parking. These areas are sometimes published in the Gazette. The Gazette is the official government publication that publishes government notices, rules and regulations. Once information is published in the Gazette, there is a presumption that road users have notice of such information. A motorist who parks in a “gazetted” area would not have the luxury of being able to rely solely on the fact that a “no parking” sign was not visible or not in conformity with the regulated specifications. It would be presumed that he or she had knowledge of the fact that parking in the area was prohibited. However, all may not be lost, as the motorist if taken to court will have the opportunity to state his case and rebut the presumption.
The answer to the question seems to depend on the circumstances of each motorist. A motorist who can sufficiently prove to the court that the “No Parking” sign or mark was not visible or that it looked completely different from similar signs, will have a better chance of being found not guilty of the traffic offence.
Under the Road Traffic Act illegal parking attracts hefty fines and can result in your vehicle being confiscated. So think twice before you park, remember to be observant and obey traffic signs at all times. Save yourself the expense and the time to dispute a traffic ticket that could have been avoided.