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Robert Cardwell: party culture makes us take chances on the road

Chief Inspector Robert Cardwell, of the Bermuda Police Service (Photograph by Fiona McWhirter)

A senior police officer said “people take chances” as he underscored a plea for residents not to put themselves and others at risk by drink-driving.

Chief Inspector Robert Cardwell believed the island’s social culture played a part in why some motorists were yet to heed the advice.

He said yesterday: “We don’t sit here and tell people not to consume alcohol.

“What we say is, consume alcohol responsibly and have a plan as to how you’re going to get home, whether that’s a taxi, a bus or a designated driver.”

Mr Cardwell said: “I think it’s cultural. Bermudians are social animals. We can party like the best of them and people take chances.

“What we’re trying to get across is, don’t take that chance, don’t take the risk.

“The risk is so high that you’re going to be involved in a collision and the risk is high that you could actually injure somebody else as a result of a collision, being impaired.

“We attend numerous impaired-driving collisions every year and we do make arrests at those collision scenes for the impaired-driving offence.”

Figures reported by Mr Cardwell this week showed that there were 194 arrests for impaired driving last year, compared with 134 in 2021 and 186 in 2020.

The numbers climbed when taking into account people arrested for impaired driving who refused to take a test.

Combining the figures resulted in totals of 223 for 2022, 170 for 2021 and 247 for 2020, Mr Cardwell said.

He added: “So certainly last year versus the year before, the number of impaired drivers was higher.”

Mr Cardwell said there were no recent drug-impaired driving arrests although “that’s not to say it doesn’t happen”.

The Bermuda Police Service launched Operation Vega to crack down on the most prevalent driving offences in July 2021.

Mr Cardwell said that it started “on the heels of collision numbers rising”.

He explained: “The thrust behind Operation Vega was to reduce the collisions on our roads.

“I’m happy to report that that does seem to be happening because we are reporting lower stats on collisions.

“Impaired driving continues to be a prolific offence.

“Our message is the same and that is: do not drink and drive under any circumstances.

“Our start position is that we would prefer to arrest no one for impaired driving. That would obviously create safer roads.”

Mr Cardwell said he believed that the crackdown was contributing to the BPS’s goal.

Asked about perceptions of the targeted approach, Mr Cardwell said: “Overwhelmingly what I get from the public is full support for Operation Vega.

“People want to drive on safe roads and the feedback I get is that we have the public support on Operation Vega and people are asking me to do more of it.”

Mr Cardwell said officers noted that drink-driving numbers continued to increase.

He highlighted: “We did do roadside sobriety [checks] over new year and I’m pleased that while we were doing roadside sobriety, I think we caught three impaired drivers, which is a much reduced number than when we first started roadside sobriety.

“But outside of roadside sobriety periods we’re still catching a number of impaired drivers and those numbers are not going down.”

Roadside sobriety checks were introduced in 2018 allowing officers at a traffic checkpoint to stop all vehicles.

Motorists believed to be under the influence are told to take a roadside breath test — it is an offence to refuse, under these circumstances, without a reasonable excuse.

Anyone who fails is taken to Hamilton Police Station for another test, the results of which are admissible in court as evidence.

Written authorisation from the senior magistrate is required for a road sobriety checkpoint to take place and advance notice must be given in the Official Gazette.

Mr Cardwell told The Royal Gazette: “What we will continue to do is to work within the framework of the current legislation.”

He said: “What we do know is that when we give notice, people adhere to the notice that’s been given and I think people generally think twice before they drive while impaired.

“They know when, exactly, we’re going to be doing roadside sobriety checks so that works for that very short period of roadside sobriety checks, but what we’re finding is that outside of those roadside sobriety check weekends, we are catching numerous impaired drivers.

“In fact we catch more outside of the roadside sobriety check weekends than we do inside.”

Mr Cardwell added: “It’s very good that when we give notice that people refrain from impaired driving, and we have the numbers to support that.

“We think that if we didn’t give that notice and we had the authority we would start seeing a change in the impaired-driving culture within Bermuda.”

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Published January 07, 2023 at 7:56 am (Updated January 07, 2023 at 8:21 am)

Robert Cardwell: party culture makes us take chances on the road

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