Task force to tackle deplorable’ road habits
A task force to remedy Bermuda’s “deplorable” road safety record will be put together this month, Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell said after yesterday’s road safety summit.
“Within the next two weeks, I will be calling and visiting people to be part of the working group,” said Mr Crockwell after the gathering at Elbow Beach aimed at finding immediate measures to counter the Island’s culture of bad driving.
“It will be done as soon as possible. The members will have to be identified — we don’t want it to be too large. I think there are some obvious selections we can make from today.”
The summit, which Mr Crockwell called a catalyst for change, has brought together the Police, the Bermuda Health Council, insurers, the Road Safety Council, CADA and other stakeholders for a brainstorming session to produce quick measures that can be effected within budgetary constraints.
Mr Crockwell confirmed that legislation allowing Police to administer breath tests at the scenes of accidents would be introduced at the upcoming legislative session.
Asked about Police carrying out spot checks to test drivers, however, the minister said drivers would be checked only if there had been probable cause.
“It won’t be random spotting — that would bring into the conversation a lot of other challenges,” he said.
During the summit, Shadow Transport Minister Lawrence Scott argued in favour of random stops, telling the roughly 50 people gathered: “It might not be something we want to do, but it is something we need to do. I understand there are some issues with the constitutionality of it, but I feel that we as a collective group can work around that.”
However, Public Safety permanent secretary Marc Telemaque responded that Bermuda’s constitution “survives on the principle that if no one is doing anything wrong, you cannot stop them”.
The Minister commended the “robust debate” that attended the four-hour gathering.
Inspector Robert Cardwell, of the Bermuda Police Service, told the summit he had witnessed “horrible” driving even on his way to the gathering in an unmarked car, and warned there was no single solution to the mayhem on Bermuda’s roads.
There have been 89 road deaths since 2008 compared with 41 murders, including 29 gun or gang-related killings. Last year, 138 serious injuries were caused by collisions.
“We are losing lives, stressing the healthcare system and increasing our health insurance premiums, both motor and health,” he said, giving the reason for creating a Road Safety Coalition.
Overall, collisions were down 26.4 per cent from 2013 to 2014, although part of the decline can be attributed to a policy of Police no longer attending minor collisions where there is damage only.
Police are also using their discretion to issue motorist advice notices rather than automatically issuing tickets, which he said had clogged the courts and alienated Police from the public.
“We don’t want to catch you speeding — we want to stop you from speeding,” Insp Cardwell said, adding that he took no exception to drivers flashing their lights to warn other motorists of police radar.
Either way, he said, drivers responded by reducing their speed. Police can now call in to check if, and when, a driver has been given a motorist advice notice if officers are in doubt over whether to ticket drivers who commit minor offences.
“We have got a bunch of ideas we’re looking for the Coalition to come up with,” Insp Cardwell said. “We are looking for some outside-the-box thinking to attack this problem.”
For example, drunk drivers sometimes tell Police they chose to drive to avoid their car getting ticketed or clamped. “Maybe the Corporation of Hamilton could issue a morning-after pass,” Insp Cardwell said.
Senator Jeff Baron, meanwhile, said there had not been enough responsibility taken by liquor-licenced premises.
Insp Cardwell noted the Island lacked “a serious culture toward impaired driving”.
Police spokesman Dwayne Caines told the summit that the Island’s pack-racing epidemic of the 1960s through 1980s had gradually been reined in through a concerted community effort. A Transport Control Department staff member, meanwhile, suggested enhanced licensing procedures.
The formation of the Road Safety Coalition will co-ordinate all the changes proposed at today’s summit and going forward, Insp Cardwell said.
At present, Police radar routinely clocks drivers travelling at 70km/h to more than 100km/h, but the drivers are not disqualified when they attend court.
As well as enhanced penalties, the summit may hear possible insurance incentives to encourage safer driving.
A Coalition is likely to include representatives from the courts as well as TCD and insurers, making it easier to access a motorist’s history of traffic offences.
The long term goal is to change the Island’s driving culture, the summit heard — and the youth driving programme Project Ride could be a casualty as a result.
Novice drivers aged 16 top the statistics for injuries, with road safety expert Joseph Froncioni making a strong and popular case for the introduction of a comprehensive graduated licence programme.
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