Children need more training on bikes
Putting a child on the road after going through the Project Ride programme alone is “criminal” according to orthopaedic surgeon Joseph Froncioni.
Road safety campaigner Dr Froncioni said he does not know how politicians could live with themselves when so many teenagers were getting injured in crashes.
He added that he was dismayed that new Bermuda Road Safety Council chairman Dennis Lister III, the Progressive Labour Party backbencher, had said he believed Project Ride was sufficient.
The Royal Gazette spoke to Mr Lister since interviewing him last week and he said the council was considering which way Project Ride should be advanced rather than ruling out that it would be.
A recommendation for a full graduated licensing programme, sitting with the Government, includes crucial on-road training not included in Project Ride.
Figures provided by the Ministry of Transport point to a decrease in collisions by 16 to 20-year-olds over the past ten years. However, 16-year-olds — those new to the road — remain the most likely age group to be involved in a crash.
Road safety campaigner Dr Froncioni told The Royal Gazette: “I have observed [Project Ride] for many years — in one survey we did about ten years ago we looked at one school and looked at the group of students that took Project Ride. We followed them over three months and a full 30 per cent of them were involved in crashes.
“Learning how to drive a motorbike properly is not a natural thing; in fact, it is extremely difficult. Motorbikes are the most dangerous form of transport.
“When I read that the chairman of the Bermuda Road Safety Council suggested that Project Ride was sufficient, I was appalled.
“The Bermuda Motorcycle Academy is available for anyone who wants their children to learn to ride their bike properly. Not everyone can afford it but if the Government decided to subsidise it, it would be money well spent.”
Dr Froncioni said his study of nearly 4,000 people presented to the Emergency Room with road injuries over a two-year period showed a large spike of 16-year-olds. He labelled this “the spike of shame”.
He said: “How our politicians can live with this spike, I am not sure. I suspect some of them don't even know about it.
“Those injuries leave permanent disabilities — head injuries, major bone fractures — it is criminal to be doing this.
“The other factor is your brain does not mature until you are 25: the frontal lobes that help you decide what is right and wrong — what is risky and what isn't risky. We didn't know that until ten years ago.
“It has to be mandatory. I am not talking about Project Ride, I am talking about the Bermuda Motorcycle Academy level of course internationally recognised and known to decrease crash risk.
“We convinced Bermuda to produce a system, the Youth Licence, but what did Bermuda do? It took a tried and tested method that has been proven in the UK, Canada, the States and Australia to decrease the mortality rate by at least 30 per cent — we took this intervention and we diluted it.”
A chart supplied by the Ministry of Transport shows that collisions involving 16 to 20 year olds had steadily decreased from 514 collisions in 2007 to 161 in 2016.
Project Ride was introduced in the 1990s but became mandatory in 2010 and no figures were supplied stipulating how many had participated in the programme.
Dr Froncioni said of the figures: “It would be completely incorrect to attribute this decrease to Project Ride as correlation does not equal causation. To determine whether Project Ride has had any effect on the crash rate of its graduates, a prospective study comparing the crash rate for kids who have taken the course to kids who have not is needed.”
New road users aged 16 continue to have the highest crash rate of all others in Bermuda.