An issue that cuts across all lines
Your newspaper has reported from time to time on issues faced by Bermuda driving-licence holders when hiring cars abroad.
The problem boils down to Bermuda having always resisted extension of the various international road traffic conventions, which provide for reciprocal recognition of driving licences between states.
In practice, car-hire companies in many places might just assume that a Bermuda licence is acceptable. However, this might not reflect the actual legal position in the country, which can have very bad consequences.
These can include being denied access to a car that was being relied upon for a trip, or prosecution overseas for driving without a valid licence.
Most seriously, someone could find themselves personally liable for a major compensation claim abroad in the event of an accident, and it transpiring that insurance was invalid because of the driver not having a valid licence.
Bermuda licence holders already face issues from time to time in Massachusetts, Azores and Canada, among other places.
These risks may well increase after January 1, 2021, when Britain will be no longer subject to European Union driving-licence laws as a result of Brexit. At that time, British licence holders may need to obtain an International Driving Permit to drive within the EU.
This increased scrutiny of British licence holders may have a knock-on effect on scrutiny of the holders of Bermuda licences as a British Overseas Territory.
Unfortunately, Bermuda driving-licence holders cannot get an IDP because Bermuda is not signed up to any of the international conventions.
Bermuda basically has 11 months to get its act together and sign the road traffic conventions. This will enable Bermuda licence holders to drive throughout most countries in the world.
In return, Bermuda will have to reciprocate by allowing new residents to use foreign driving licences for the first six months of residency, and to allow visitors to use their foreign licences — eg, if they borrow the car of a local family member they are staying with. It would not require Bermuda to introduce car hire.
I understand that the main reason locally for resisting the change is fear of upsetting driving-licence instructors and taxi drivers, who benefit from the red tape stopping people from driving in Bermuda short term with a foreign licence. If the Government is keen to appease these special interests, then ways could be found to do so — eg by reducing tax burdens of driving instructors and taxi drivers.
However, it is unacceptable for those special interests to trump the interests of the wider community to be able to drive overseas legally, safely and with peace of mind.
This is yet another issue where we are behind the Cayman Islands, which has been part of the Road Traffic Convention scheme since 1959.
There was a government press release dated February 3, 2017 saying that the issue was being looked into. This issue cuts across party lines and should be of equal concern to anyone who ever hires a car when overseas. It is time for it to be resolved.
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