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Burt: time for action on road deaths

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Timely warning: the scene last night near Whitney Institute, where a speeding car with six passengers flipped and crashed into a wall (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

David Burt wants to run “a government of action and not of talking” to tackle Bermuda’s epidemic of road deaths and injuries.

To back up those words, the Premier said he intends to introduce roadside breath tests and increased penalties for impaired drivers “before Cup Match”.

He said: “We have an epidemic and if we are not going to be serious about taking measures that are going to attempt to change destructive behaviour inside of our communities then we are going to continue to have those particular challenges.

“Government has responsibility to make sure that our environments are as safe as possible so from that perspective we look forward to implementing that before Cup Match and putting it into effect shortly thereafter.”

Mr Burt was speaking to The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign, which backs roadside breath tests, speed cameras and a graduated licensing programme.

He said the island’s drink-drive rate was “not an easy culture to break”.

Mr Burt added: “Culture is what is accepted, it is what people do and it is without question a challenge that we have to change.”

He said: “I think there are very few Bermudians who have not been affected by losing someone close on the road.

“It is a constant experience whether it is your constituents, whether it’s your friends, whether it is your family and it is not just death because there is also serious injury.” Mr Burt added: “I know there are members of my family who have had serious injury and their life has been impacted for ever. They are technically disabled for ever and those are the type of things that we see.

“Clearly we have to take steps to address that and roadside sobriety is one of our pledges and I believe that it will have a positive effect on attempting to change behaviour. We have to make sure that we are vigilant with enforcement.”

Bermuda’s roads are treacherous for new motorcycle users and 16-year-olds have one of the highest crash rates of all age groups.

Motorcycles are also one of the highest risk vehicles in the world and the most common vehicle used in Bermuda.

Road safety campaigners, including the Bermuda Police Service and EMT services agreed with Drive for Change and its partners at A Piece of the Rock that the Project Ride programme for young bikers needed improvement.

The former One Bermuda Alliance government was presented with a white paper by the Bermuda Road Safety Council last summer that backed a Bermudian-tailored graduated licensing programme, including on-road training, for new riders.

But Mr Burt said: “The first mention that I know about this graduated licensing is what you are telling me now.

“Certainly, we can look into further enhancing our graduated licensing programme now — the last time the PLP was in government there was a graduated licensing regime put in place with the Bermuda youth licence.

“If you say there are recommendations to enhance that, I am sure that the Minister of Transport if prompted will, if he feels it is necessary, bring it forth.”

Mr Burt added: “We have identified road safety as something that we want to improve — you have one of my Cabinet ministers, Walter Roban, with an interview on how it affects all of us and we want to takes steps so that fewer families have to go through pain and trauma that many families have already experienced.”

Mr Burt admitted that he does not ride a motorcycle in Bermuda. He said: “I try my best not to.”

Mr Burt was asked if he would be confident putting his children on a bike with existing levels of training.

He said: “Responsibility cannot just be from the Government — responsibility can also be for parents.

“But if there are thoughts and ways for improvements to be made and if there are suggestions that come and if there are things that need to be done, we will want to be a government of action not of talking.”

Mr Burt added that speed cameras were not budgeted for this financial year but did not rule out their introduction before the next Budget.

He said: “One of the mistakes that governments get into is over promising and not delivering and I’m not trying to give unrealistic expectations.

“At this point in time, our only commitment when it comes to road safety as it was spelled out inside of our Throne Speech is roadside sobriety testing and increasing penalties for persons who may be driving while impaired.

“The issue of speed cameras is something that we are not going to rule out but the fact is that it is not budgeted for currently and it has to be balanced against all other priorities inside of our budget.”

Open to change: David Burt, the Premier, has not ruled out the introduction of speed cameras despite them not being budgeted for in 2018-19 (File photograph by Akil Simmons)