Roadside launch evokes cocktail of everything
Hurtling along the roads of Paget and Devonshire, blue flashing lights seemed to bounce off every surface.
We were chasing a “suspect cycle” although I did not have a clear idea of why the rider was at fault. But the energy and intensity of the officers in pursuit left me in no doubt that whatever had happened was significant.
The incident happened as a team from The Royal Gazette joined Bermuda Police Service for the first weekend of roadside breath test checkpoints.
When a motorcyclist failed to stop at a checkpoint on Crow Lane, Devonshire, officers mounted an immediate pursuit along Pomander Road, Trimingham Hill, South Road, Tee Street, Berry Hill Road, back to Crow Lane and in the wrong direction up Corkscrew Hill.
The rider was no match for the police but, of course, his actions did not only affect them.
He was reported to have “cut up” a car driven by Jean Jaynea Lottimore, a 45-year-old hospital worker on her way home from a friend's house, at the junction of Shelton Road and Cavendish Road in Devonshire.
Acting Inspector Dorian Astwood said the motorcyclist was prevented from going any further because another vehicle blocked his way.
The rider lost control, decked out the bike and tried to run away but was stopped by the teams chasing him.
Mr Astwood said: “He tried to violently resist arrest and a Taser was deployed, which allowed us to handcuff him and take him into custody.”
Ms Lottimore was upset but unhurt by the incident.
She said: “All of a sudden, I just looked and saw a bike coming towards me.”
She added: “I can't stop shaking, it's the first time I've ever been in an accident.”
We later learnt the “suspect” bike was alleged to have been stolen, which showed that roadside breath test checkpoints also offered police the chance to detect other crimes.
Driver after driver was waved down by glowing red wands on Saturday night and into the early hours of Sunday morning, but most seemed relaxed about the brief holdup to traffic.
Quick conversations helped to determine whether a handheld breathalyser was needed.
Motorists were asked questions like: “Where are you coming from? Where are you going? Have you consumed any alcohol?”
That allowed officers time to check whether the driver's speech was slurred, eyes were glazed or if there was a smell of alcohol.
If they detected any of these signs, the driver or rider was sent to a second officer who asked them to perform a field sobriety check, such as walking in a straight line heel-to-toe, raising a finger to the nose, or — the one most commonly used in our presence — tipping the head back and counting down 30 seconds.
Chief Inspector Robert Cardwell, head of roads policing, said: “If the officer doing the field sobriety checks suspects there's any alcohol at all, he's going to put you on the roadside sobriety device.”
I tried the gadget for myself, blowing a long, steady breath into a straw, which is always fresh and unwrapped in front of the suspect and then attached to the breathalyser.
The screen on the device showed that it is carrying out “analysis” as a few, for some perhaps anxious, seconds pass.
My result was zero, as I expected, but I was told one motorist had blown as high as 99.
The legal limit is 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.
Others who also had nothing to worry about said the checkpoints were an “excellent” antidote to Bermuda's high road accident rate and the “best thing” that could be done.
Another motorcyclist later tried to evade officers and his pursuit also ended in a crash — this time into the back of a police bike on Palmetto Road in Devonshire. The rider failed the roadside breath test.
One man, who admitted he had been drinking and gave a breath sample that was below the legal limit, said the checkpoints were “good”.
He added: “A lot of accidents have been happening on the roads.
“They're trying to save more lives so it's a positive thing. You can't knock them for doing their jobs.”
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