Roadside sobriety tests to go live in ‘days’

Roadside breath test checkpoints could be operational inside a week, the Commissioner of Police has revealed.

“We have made applications for three checkpoint locations that we want to work in, so, while there is a delay, I don’t see it as being anything other than a matter of days,” Stephen Corbishley said.

“I hope that we are able to achieve over the next seven days the opportunity to put this in place operationally.”

Mr Corbishley was speaking a month after legislation to allow checkpoints to be set up was given Royal Assent by John Rankin, the Governor.

The legal amendment allows police to stop and check road users without a need to suspect they are over the drink limit.

The Ministry of National Security said last week that the delay was because hand-held breathalysers were not available.

Checkpoints can be set up using field tests like having drivers walk in a straight line.

The Road Traffic (Road Sobriety Checkpoints) Amendment Act 2018 ruled that police must get permission from a senior magistrate to set up checkpoints.

Mr Corbishley confirmed the police service had made a successful application to a senior magistrate but that the checkpoints did not go ahead.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of National Security declined to comment on who had blocked the implementation.

But she said: “Specialised equipment needed to conduct the testing is expected on island in due course.

“Once all of the elements are in place, the public can expect to see the full implementation of roadside sobriety testing.”

Mr Corbishley said that the breathalyser machines were expected to arrive on the island by the end of this week and that officers had been trained to use them.

He added: “While it is frustrating that we can’t go ahead as quickly as we would like, I don’t see it as a significant problem.

“We are trying to go as quickly as possible because more people are losing their lives on the road than other forms of violence so it is a priority for us in terms of public safety.”

The parish and times that a checkpoint will operate must appear in the Official Gazette at least five days in advance to comply with regulations.

Several checkpoints can be deployed in the named parish — a provision designed to make sure drivers will not know exactly where the checkpoints will be.

Every driver that goes through a checkpoint will have to take a field test or breath test.

It is estimated that about 75 per cent of road fatalities in Bermuda involve alcohol or drugs.

A 2006 study showed that breath tests and a reduction in the levels of alcohol in blood have helped to cut road death rates in Australia, Europe, the United States and other countries.

When Ireland adopted breath test checkpoints, the number of crashes dropped by 19 per cent and the country’s rate of road fatalities is now below the OECD average at 6.7 per 100,000 a year.

Bermuda loses on average more than 15 lives per 100,000 in road crashes a year.

Mr Corbishley said that as well as changes to traffic laws to help to make Bermuda’s road safer, there needs to be a significant change in culture.

He added: “We can’t have a culture in Bermuda that is tolerant of people who think that it is okay to drink excessively or take drugs and be in charge of a motor vehicle — it is wrong on every level.

“While this behaviour in the past might have existed, this is about public safety.

“People have and are likely to lose their life or be seriously injured as a result of a road traffic collision which is further aggravated by people who have taken drugs or excessively drunk alcohol.

“From a police service perspective we can’t tolerate that — we will bring them to justice.”

Mr Corbishley added: “Our duty is to make sure that road users and pedestrians are safe.

“There are no grey lines here — it is a matter of law and we will enforce that law and anybody who chooses to drink and drive or take drugs and drive will be dealt with.

“It is about realising when you go out for an evening you have to consider your transportation — you can’t get in the car or on the bike at the end of the night and drive home just because you think you can get away with it.”

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Published Aug 23, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 23, 2018 at 6:54 am)

Roadside sobriety tests to go live in ‘days’

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