Roadside breath tests ‘long overdue’

  • Pushing move: Cada director Anthony Santucci (Photo by Akil Simmons)

    Pushing move: Cada director Anthony Santucci (Photo by Akil Simmons)

Road safety campaigners yesterday welcomed legislation to allow roadside breath test checkpoints — but said the move was “long overdue”.

Anthony Santucci, executive director of anti-alcohol abuse charity Cada, said: “I am very excited to be getting to this point after a decade of pushing this concept.

“Unfortunately, there have been many, many fatalities in the interim. I don’t know what cost you put on the value of life but 118 deaths in ten years is chronic and the tens of thousands of crashes.”

Mr Santucci added: “In reality, the checks are not to catch people — it is really another step in changing our relationship with alcohol.

“We encouraged the policymakers to make it flexible and make sure that when you are doing them they are well advertised. We can start to change Bermuda’s relationship with alcohol.”

The legislation said that checkpoints would be made public at least five days in advance but would only include the date and parish where they would be set up.

The proposed new law also allows for every vehicle to be pulled over at a checkpoint in a bid to avoid accusations of profiling.

Surgeon Joseph Froncioni, a former chairman of the Bermuda Road Safety Council, said it appeared enough information would be released for the checkpoints to act as a deterrent — but not enough to help people avoid them.

He said: “It is very encouraging — it seems like a step forward. Generally, I think that sobriety checkpoints are going to be a strong deterrent to drinking and driving and I think that is how they should be viewed.

“If I read the legislation correctly, the police, with permission from a magistrate, will be able to publish a general piece of information about when and where the checkpoints will be and they can publish information about multiple checkpoints, so, in theory, they could just blanket the whole thing so that an individual really would not know when or where but just the date and parish.”

Dr Froncioni added: “You can deter people when you convince them that there is a significant chance that if they drink and drive they will be caught.

“That is how you change behaviour. You don’t do it by arresting people and imprisoning people — that is costly and ineffective.”

Dr Froncioni said there were traffic laws on the books that were not properly enforced.

He added: “I have been around this for 20 years and have seen a lot of good intentions fall by the wayside.

“The 1997 Road Traffic Amendment Act gave police the right to demand blood, urine or other body fluids, which has never been fully implemented.”

Dr Froncioni explained helmet standard laws had never been fully implemented. He also said that police had the power to demand blood samples from people in the emergency room who were suspected of impairment but only one person was authorised to take samples.

He added: “I would really like the minister to implement that law by designating trained and approved phlebotomists, of which we have about 30 qualified in Bermuda, to draw blood.

“We are missing about 95 per cent of the people who end up in emergency impaired.”

Mr Santucci said that Cada would help to publicise the legislation and its implications alongside the Bermuda Road Safety Council and Ministry of Transport.

He added: “A well-crafted communication plan should be going into effect right away, quite honestly.

“The ministry doesn’t have to wait for it to pass. Cada will do its best to get people to know the concepts of sobriety checkpoints.”

Both Mr Froncioni and Mr Santucci also supported a measure announced in the Government’s Operation Caution Road Safety Plan 2018 — separate from the Bill — to look at reducing the legal blood-alcohol limit from 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood to 50/100.

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Published Jul 2, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 2, 2018 at 10:41 am)

Roadside breath tests ‘long overdue’

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