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Police want law change to allow more roadside sobriety testing

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Police want to see the law changed to allow them to carry out more roadside sobriety tests. (Photograph from the Bermuda Police Service)

Police have renewed calls for changes in the law so that they can carry out roadside sobriety tests more easily and more frequently.

At present, the Bermuda Police Service have to get permission from a senior magistrate before they can carry out roadside tests.

Police must also warn the public about where and when checkpoints will be in operation.

Chief Inspector Robert Cardwell, of the police tactical operations division, said that the regulations hampered the effectiveness of road sobriety testing operations.

Call for change: Chief Inspector Robert Cardwell (File photograph)

Mr Cardwell said: “Under the current legislation we first have to apply to the senior magistrate to carry out roadside breath testing. Then we have to advertise when and where we will be doing this.

“This system of application and advertisement does not appear in any other jurisdiction with similar legislation.

“As it stands, offenders know when not to drink and drive. This does not mean they will not drink and drive when roadside sobriety testing has not been published. The BPS has appealed to the minister with the hope of having the legislation amended so that this authority can be used with a higher frequency.”

Last year Stephen Corbishley, the former Commissioner of Police, urged the Government to update laws relating to a string of offences, such as inadequate fines for road offences.

The last road sobriety test operation took place during the Labour Day holiday weekend, when eight motorists were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Speaking to The Royal Gazette yesterday, Mr Cardwell also defended the effectiveness of Operation Vega, the police campaign to curb bad driving habits.

Latest statistics show that the number of tickets issued for an array of motoring offences has risen in the year since the operation was launched.

But Mr Cardwell said: “One of the goals of Operation Vega is to reduce collision numbers. Since we started Operation Vega, we have seen collision numbers in the fourth quarter of 2021 and first quarter of 2022 fall.

“The second-quarter collision numbers of 2022 edged up slightly over the same period the previous year, but was still lower than years before.

“The second quarter is hard to compare due to Covid restrictions in place in the second quarter of 2021, which were not in place in the second quarter of 2022. Covid rules did restrict movement and that contributed to reduced collisions.

“We do feel that Operation Vega contributed to falling numbers. As for the number of offenders being ticketed, that number is higher because there is an all-out assault on traffic offenders, the likes of which have not been seen prior to this initiative.

“We expect the number to be high because traffic enforcement is a priority for operational policing staff. The numbers are a measurement tool for us so we can assess success.

“Will our efforts reduce the number of traffic offences? This may not occur in the short term. What we are experiencing is a bad attitude and a bad culture of driving behaviour. Culture takes a long time to change.“

The Royal Gazette sent questions relating to roadside sobriety tests to the ministers of transport, national security, and legal affairs yesterday. No response was received by press time.

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Published September 16, 2022 at 2:24 pm (Updated September 16, 2022 at 2:24 pm)

Police want law change to allow more roadside sobriety testing

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