Roban: Breath test laws will happen this year
Walter Roban, the transport minister has reiterated that roadside breath tests are a priority for the Government.
“The idea of deploying roadside sobriety testing has been something discussed for many years,” he added.
“It has taken much too long to put in place and the Government has made it an objective as one of the tools that we are going to use to influence the behaviour of persons on the roads.
“We know from the data that the majority of deaths are attributable to some involvement of substances that have influenced the behaviour of a person on the roads so we have got to go directly at that.
“Observing what is happening in other jurisdictions can make some difference. There are other things that have to happen but this is one of the key initiatives that we are going to make sure we get in place as soon as possible. We want to make sure it is in place this legislative year.”
Australia has one of the best road safety records in the world.
Random breath testing started in 1982 in New South Wales and fatal crashes involving alcohol dropped from about 40 per cent of all fatalities to 15 per cent in 2012.
The police in NSW can test drivers for impairment without cause.
But Bermuda police officers still need a reason to pull over a driver — so a road user has to exhibit potentially dangerous behaviour such as swerving across the centre line or ignoring traffic signs.
Mr Roban has not said whether Bermuda's road testing system will include non-selective testing, which would reduce the risk of profiling.
It is also unknown whether sobriety checkpoint locations would be announced in advance.
Mr Roban said: “It's important to make sure that it's done correctly due to the sensitivities around it.
“Those details are being discussed and worked on. Right now the police can stop anyone at any time for any issue that they feel raises suspicion.
“They can stop you to check your licence or if there is some safety issue with your car. They already have general power to stop persons.
“Whatever is done, we want the people to understand that this is to stop people from dying.
“It's not to interfere or make it inconvenient for people to move around and enjoy themselves.
“It is only being done to stop the high level of deaths and collisions that we are experiencing.”
Only two police doctors are authorised to take blood samples from suspected impaired drivers, although 15 doctors are trained to do it.
And there are legal problems around taking blood from an unconscious hospital patient without their consent.
Mr Roban said: “We will advance that as we advance the roadside sobriety testing regime.
“That piece about having more people available to take blood samples will be advanced.
“I'm not sure whether that is just an issue for my ministry. It may be under national security and it may come under health. But I agree that needs to be advanced.”
1 Advocate for the introduction of roadside breath tests
2 Advocate for the effective use of speed camera technology
3 Advocate for the introduction of a mandatory graduated licensing programme for all Bermuda’s road users
4 Raise awareness of road safety and encourage a grassroots, community-wide effort to effect change