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Praying for safer roads this holiday season

It may be the most ubiquitous lie — the lie so transparent that it has guilty stamped all over it.

“Honestly officer, I've had one beer and a small glass of wine.”

Unsteady on the feet, reeking of alcohol and eyes glazed, we know that same driver has downed about three or four beers, half a bottle of wine, and “one for the road”.

Having swerved from one side of the road to the other, he appears confused when marched into a police cell to sober up and to be given a date to appear before the magistrate.

Drink-driving is probably one, if not the most common, offence in Bermuda or, for that matter, anywhere else in the rest of the Western world.

As we approach the Christmas holidays, police, ambulance drivers, doctors and other medical staff will be bracing themselves for another rash of road accidents.

Police and the Road Safety Council have been hammering home the same “don't drink and drive” message on TV, in the newspapers and social media over the past decade, but for some it never resonates.

The majority do listen, heading for a party, bar or restaurant. They take the safe route, leaving their bikes and cars in the driveway, and hop into a taxi — as much for their own wellbeing as for those who share the same tarmac.

The so-called designated driver is sometimes employed, but it's not a particularly popular option, as the one behind the wheel is restricted to sipping a soft drink while the rest of the gang proceed to drink the bar dry.

Yet there's always someone who is prepared to take the risk of jumping on to the bike or into the car, thinking “it won't be me”.

These invincibles promise they will drink responsibly and drive with the caution.

Of course, we know from statistics that's not the case.

Bermuda will be praying for no fatalities on the roads over the holidays, or serious injuries.

But you can bet your cassava pie, there will be a fair few who end up in the emergency room to get their broken bones and cuts and bruises tended to.

And there will be plenty who will escape unscathed, but left to examine the vehicular damage: the smashed headlights, the twisted handlebars, the scratches and dented fenders.

It's not difficult to understand why Bermuda suffers such a high number of traffic accidents. We're not designed for bumper-car driving.

The roads are too small, the vehicles far too big and our drivers are as reckless as anywhere else in the world.

Back in the early Seventies, Alf Morris, a blunt-speaking northerner from England who was then the assistant police commissioner, was always bemused by the Island's driving habits and his reasoning as to why we don't endure more accidents than we should is that the youngsters were extremely talented bike drivers.

Pack racing was one of the Island's most popular “sports”. Late at night, dozens of teens would gather at a designated spot — decided earlier in the day — rev up their souped-up, stripped-down, rebored bikes and proceed to terrorise the roads by screaming around bends and through stop signs, ignoring traffic lights, and hurtling down hills at speeds exceeding 60mph or more.

They were our own versions of Valentino Rossi.

But, amazingly, there were few injuries and few arrests as the riders were too fast and too wily for the police.

These days our children don't have the same talent or sense as they attempt to weave between traffic at breakneck speeds.

Part of the problem is that we have the same roads but twice the amount of cars. The bikes are safer but the riders aren't.

Road safety has long been an issue.

One suspects the Bermuda Tourism Authority doesn't advertise the joys of pottering around the Island on a rental scooter as much as it should for fear that one visitor fatality could rip a hole in Bermuda's reputation as a safe destination.

That gives taxi drivers an added responsibility — to ensure visitors get from A to B safely. Yet there are a few who don't take on that responsibility; they who believe they own the road and, as such, compound the problem.

According to Inspector Robert Cardwell, the Island has suffered 92 road deaths since 2008, an average of 13 each year — more than one every month — which is a staggering statistic as our unofficial speed limit is 20mph and police tolerate anything up to 30mph.

Mr Cardwell, at a press conference last week, revealed that 7,381 drivers had been cited with court summonses this year. Astonishing.

Are our driving habits really that bad? Apparently so.

“It's not our 16-year-olds wreaking havoc on the roads and it's not our senior citizens,” Mr Cardwell explained. “It's a combination of everyone.”

That, however, may be disputed by commuters from the west.

Every morning and every evening, it's the young motorcyclists who enrage the responsible drivers as they dodge cars, overtaking on the left more than they do to the right, with the throttle wide open.

It's not the grannies and grandpas ... it's the children who show no fear, no respect for others on the road.

And the sad part is that the victims are often those who show the required courtesy needed to bring down the accident figures.

Over the next two weeks, we'll find out if the warnings have been heeded.

But police will not be holding their breath.

Staggering statistic: since 2008, Bermuda has averaged 13 road fatalities each year. With the Christmas holidays approaching police and medical staff will be bracing themselves for a rash of road accidents

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Published December 22, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 21, 2015 at 10:26 pm)

Praying for safer roads this holiday season

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