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Drive for Change backed by 100 doctors

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Benjamin Lau

The island’s doctors have queued up to sign a petition to back The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign.

More than 100 medics out of 130 have already backed the three campaign objectives and more are expected to follow.

Annabel Fountain, an endocrinologist and president of the Bermuda Medical Doctors’ Association, said doctors were affected by the grim toll of death and injury on the roads.

Dr Fountain said: “Doctors really feel the trauma associated with our roads as they see it first-hand.

“Even if it is not members of our family who have been affected, we are the people who are caring for those individuals and caring for their families.

“We are there for the fallout when something dreadful happens. It is not just once for us, we have to see multiple people.” She added: “The orthopaedic surgeons, the radiologists and the emergency physicians are really managing it on the front line but the rest of us have all worked in emergency so we understand.”

The Drive for Change campaign, launched in January with road safety group A Piece of the Rock, called for roadside breath tests, now introduced, speed cameras and proper training for road users.

The online petition signed by 105 doctors will be launched on the Drive for Change site today so members of the public can also show their support.

Dr Fountain is pleased that roadside breath tests were now being used, but said their use should be extended and more could be done to stop other bad behaviour on the roads.

She added: “I don’t think the checkpoints should only be on some nights of the week and we shouldn’t necessarily be told where they are.

“I am glad that something is happening but there is still a big problem with enforcement of other legislation such as speed limits.

“Proper enforcement of laws will probably be most effective, in my opinion.”

Ayesha Peets Talbot, medical physician at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute and medical director at Ocean Rock Wellness, said she supported the campaign not just as a doctor, but as someone who had lost family and friends on the roads.

She said: “Doctors have to see the trauma regularly but it means more to you when you have personally been affected by it.

“Five years ago, I lost my brother-in-law in a bike accident and I have lost other family members who are really close to me in bike accidents.

“I have seen this from when I was a child — when my brother was about 16 he lost two of his best friends when they collided head on.

“It overwhelms you and it takes its toll on the community, so, for me, signing up for Drive for Change was easy.”

Dr Peets Talbot has also seen a link between crashes and addictions.

She explained: “I deal with patients who have substance abuse issues and very commonly they have past traumas like bike accidents.

“Sometimes they are chasing chronic pain and I see they start using drugs to comfort that.”

Benjamin Lau added: “I have seen far too many tragedies and long-lasting effects on individuals and families that it is urgent that change happens now.

“Head injuries and long bone fractures are too much a commonality in the emergency room — they just shouldn’t happen on that scale. It affects everyone and not only impacts us emotionally but also financially.”

Joseph Froncioni, an orthopaedic surgeon and a former chairman of the Bermuda Road Safety Council has been a road safety campaigner for 30 years.

He said: “It is my impression that the present lobbying effort is one of the most powerful I have seen in the 30 years that I have been involved in road safety.

“There are a number of groups who have formed a synergy — they have all gelled together to form a powerful lobbying group.

“These three measures we have always agreed on — graduated licensing with a proper motorcycle riding course, speed control and impaired driving.

“We know that the biggest contributory factors are inexperience, speed and alcohol.

“There are obvious solutions to decreasing that. For a campaign to be effective you have to pick the targets and hit those nails hard.”

Members of the public can sign the Drive for Change petition at change.org/p/drive-for-change-and-partners-let-s-make-bermuda-s-roads-safer

Ayesha Peets Talbot
Joseph Froncioni
Annabel Fountain