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Back the police to liberate roads from fools on wheels

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Just the ticket: police should be empowered to do whatever is necessary to protect us from ourselves

The Bermuda Police Service took the extraordinarily polite decision to apologise to the public for causing a disruption to their commute into Hamilton and beyond — merely for doing their job.

We say “extraordinarily” because in camping out in the western parishes yesterday, 24 hours after a similar action occurred in the Stowe Hill area of Paget, police possibly saved a life and probably lowered the A&E intake at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

For a country that squanders more than ten lives annually on our roads going back at least 15 years, with hundreds passing through the emergency ward living to die another day, some disruption is the least that can be expected in the wake of a national diminishing of the brain cells.

This is an epidemic more grave than any health warning at present, and more debilitating and long-lasting than the deathly consequences from a life in the grip of our nuisance gangs.

There are some very bright people in Bermuda — we have produced 102 Rhodes Scholars since 1904, so we are not stupid — but the median IQ in relation to road safety awareness has to be significantly south of 100 for all the anguish we have brought ourselves over the years.

Twenty-one square miles of winding roads in and of itself should be the precursor to adhering to something in the vicinity of a 35km/h speed limit while placing respect for others high on the list of priorities. A safety-first road planner could not have dreamt up a more fitting road map design to preserve life.

But, no, confidence in our ability to negotiate blind corners, roundabouts, stop signs, four-way junctions and zebra crossings without lurching from one episode to the next through inane selfishness is at an all-time low.

No one has really come to grips with this. Not the politicians, not the people, not the social activists, not the churches. So why shouldn’t the police be seen to wield a bit of a heavy hand in tackling a disease that is eating away at our society?

Who was it that stuck two fingers up to the police almost immediately upon official confirmation last Thursday that the death of Roel Flores was by natural causes, lowering the running total of fatalities in 2017 from 15 to 14?

Seemingly stung by the injustice of it all, our suicidal motorists conspired to produce three serious collisions by the end of Friday. Madness.

It could be argued that the police could do more, backed by the judiciary. For what our motorists have been allowed to get away with on a daily basis is criminal.

You have to think they know what they are doing is against the law, the list including speeding, third-laning, reckless driving, driving while handling a mobile device.

The police have stepped up their efforts to ticket offenders, and in the process are catching some who should not be on the roads in the first place because of expired licences or no insurance.

But it is the penalties that may need readdressing so that a mother driving north past The Royal Gazette during the Thursday morning school run, with head down and both hands on the phone texting while her male passenger sits oblivious with headphones on — yes, we saw you, madam — knows that she runs the risk if caught of losing her licence or having her car impounded.

No questions asked.

She is but one of hundreds who break such laws on a daily basis. Because they can and because the consequences do not appear to be sufficiently punitive. And she avoided disaster because no one was on the zebra crossing when she took her foot off the brakes and accelerated before fully assessing her surroundings. With hands still on the mobile phone. Texting.

Add to these indiscretions the national pastime of drink-driving, and more than a handful of our young people believing they have licence to thrill as soon as they turn 16, and you have a potpourri of mangled machinery, mangled bodies and a host of enablers who think it is enough merely to say “Slow down, Bermuda.”

Such utterances have not worked; nor has the well-presented documentary A Piece of the Rock.

Damning statistics released yesterday by the Bermuda Hospitals Board reveal failure on so many levels. The numbers really are staggeringly poor.

For the year to the end of November, 1,556 people required emergency treatment at the hospital: so that is 11 months, 141.45 per month, 4.5 per day.

These figures are backed up for consistency by last month’s numbers alone, which show that 137 received emergency treatment — or 4.57 per day.

It matters not that November 2017 was an improvement on November 2016 — both sets of statistics are dreadful and evidence that if we are not prepared to learn from history, we are surely bound to repeat it. And we have, year after year after year.

Forget the Progressive Labour Party dropping us in a $2 billion financial hole, forget the One Bermuda Alliance plotting pathways built on a foundation of quicksand, forget the United Bermuda Party being the United Bermuda Party, forget all three being utterly ineffectual in ridding the island of gangs, forget Jamahl Simmons, forget Walton Brown.

This is far, far worse.

We are haemorrhaging people, people, and not enough among us seem to care, as long it doesn’t directly affect us — exposing a selfishness that is more than unpalatable, and which ushers images of #mefirst as a trending hashtag to properly illustrate from a drone-like experience what our roads must look like from above.

Says one drone to the other: the fools are running the asylum.

So, to the men and women of the Bermuda Police Service, we applaud you. Do your jobs. Be a bit of a nuisance. Delay traffic by a few minutes a day — more if you have to.

Make people stop and think about their actions. And the criminally inclined? Get them off our roads.

Those who wish to see road traffic fatalities dip below double figures for only the second or third time since the turn of the millennium would gladly fork out funding for the overtime bill to make your presence on our roads more visible and more permanent.

We the people who were kingmakers on July 18 have been gravemakers for far too long, complicit in the hundreds of avoidable deaths on our roads through talking the talk without walking the walk.

So, police, be boring. Be disruptive. Be our lone protectors. From ourselves. We’ll be better off for it in the long run.

UPDATE: this editorial has been amended to correct the Bermuda speed limit to 35km/h from 35mph