‘This should be a state of emergency’
Welcome to the launch of The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change road safety campaign.
Today, we pledge to push for the solutions that have been identified to reduce the risk of death and injury on our roads.
We will advocate for quick and effective legislative amendments to our traffic-related laws that have proven successful in other jurisdictions while keeping you abreast of all developments in road safety in Bermuda.
In the past ten years alone, we have lost 118 people on our roads and for every life lost there were close to 200 road-related injuries.
A staggering statistic.
Impaired driving, speeding and inadequate driver training are among the main causes of death and injury on our roads. These are the main focus of the campaign.
We will push for the same objectives that have been identified by the Bermuda Road Safety Council after extensive research looking into international best practice: the introduction of non-selective roadside sobriety testing, speed cameras and a graduated licensing programme.
We will raise awareness about general issues surrounding road safety, talk to those touched by tragedy and provide you with the data and statistics to help you to make informed decisions. We encourage you to be a part of the change and let your politicians know that making our roads safe should be a priority.
Dexter Smith, Editor of The Royal Gazette, believes the timing is right for the newspaper to champion such an important cause. “To have lost the number of residents and visitors to road deaths that we have over a ten-year span, not to mention those who have gone before, is outright criminal. Unconscionable.
“We owe it to ourselves and to those who come after us to effect change now.”
Last year, the powerful documentary and campaign A Piece of the Rock sparked an unprecedented surge in the will to address road safety on the island.
The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign is partnering with that team to build on that momentum and push for the necessary changes to be effected. The film is based on interviews with the Bermuda Police Service, the Road Safety Council, the Department of Justice, fire and rescue crews, hospital EMTs, nurses and doctors.
A Piece of the Rock campaign manager Shari-Lynn Pringle said: “We are hopeful that this movement will encourage residents to become part of the solution and end this unspoken epidemic, which has resulted in one in five residents going to the ER for a road crash in the last five to six years alone, and hundreds of lost lives. We are also hopeful that the campaign will provide the momentum required for much needed and urgent legislative action.”
The tragedy of road deaths is striking at the heart of our young people: the riders most at risk of injury are aged 16, while those most at risk of dying in a crash are aged between 21 and 25. Three quarters of all fatalities involve alcohol or drugs.
Anthony Santucci, the executive director for Cada, formerly the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, said: “Non-selective sobriety checkpoints, speed cameras and graduated licence programme are an integral part of changing our culture on the roads, and our culture as it relates to drinking and driving.
“We have been calling for sobriety checkpoints for about a decade now, so we are really excited about the campaign and look forward to facilitating and assisting in changing that relationship that we have with speed and alcohol, and other challenges.
“We are supportive of graduated licensing and the fact that young riders are going to have on-the-road experience, which is not currently available with a trained instructor. We believe it will create a baseline standard of road usage from now into the future so that young drivers are going to have some really good skill sets.
“We were excited to partner with the team at A Piece of the Rock and we support the Drive for Change campaign wholeheartedly.
“I am absolutely thrilled that The Royal Gazette has come on board and is a fully fledged partner in this process by providing the necessary coverage to ensure that we do make a significant change in our community. The Royal Gazette is a media that has great influence in the community, and so we are glad it is doing its part towards change in this particular campaign.”
Ali Bardgett, the former chairwoman of the Bermuda Road Safety Council, has been working with the Government. “As chair of the BRSC, I have had long conversations with previous chairs and council members including ex officio representatives, and the call for speed-calming measures, sobriety testing, graduated licensing and revisions of the fixed-penalty fines have ben proposed by my predecessors for legislation for decades.
“[Surgeon and leading roads expert] Joseph Froncioni first proposed graduated licensing and sobriety testing in 1995 (there is an article in the Bermuda Police Service magazine of that year outlining all of these proposals).
“These are not new inventions; other jurisdictions have had them in place for more than 20 years. Our statistics for road fatalities and injuries are consistent: every year, at the very least, there is one fatality per month and between four to six people a day going to hospital for treatment following a road collision.”
The campaign also has the full backing of the BPS.
Inspector Robert Cardwell, who heads up the Roads Policing Unit, said: “We have worked hard with our road safety partners to achieve our own objectives, which is to calm the roads and save lives. We are in support of the objectives that have been brought forward by the BRSC and are in discussion with the minister.”
Government Whip Michael Weeks lost his son, Malik, to a bike crash in 2012. “We always grieve for our son but as a country we get caught up,” he said. “This issue, with people dying on our roads, should be a state of emergency. It is another cause for us to say, ‘Stop, hold up, we need to fix this. One hundred and eighteen over the last ten years have died on our roads — the vast majority are black men like our son. We have to look into this.”
Bermuda, we want you to be part of the Drive for Change campaign.
• Please contact us with your stories, experiences, ideas, concerns and comments. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 278-0156
1 Advocate for the introduction of roadside sobriety testing
2 Advocate for the effective use of speed camera technology
3 Advocate for the introduction of a mandatory graduated licensing programme for all of Bermuda’s road users
4 Raise awareness of road safety and encourage a grass roots, community-wide effort to effect change