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Broadening conversation over Drive for Change campaign

Street movement: the Drive for Change campaign launch (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The issue of road safety is far-ranging in Bermuda and The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign aims to explore as many causes as possible throughout its six-month course.

Aside from the high rates of impaired driving, speeding and lack of adequate training — issues that Drive for Change has prioritised in considering its objectives — the campaign acknowledges that there are many issues that contribute to our poor international record for traffic-related rates of death and injury.

Drive for Change, as any campaign, can do only so much, and it is our belief that a targeted effort will prove more effective than a campaign that tries to fix everything.

Having said that, Drive for Change is committed to covering other areas and broadening the conversation.

One significant issue contributing to Bermuda’s high rates of death include the prevalent use of motorcycles on the island. Indeed, in 2011 and 2012, every single road fatality was a biker or pillion passenger and between 1997 and 2009, 88 per cent of fatalities were those on motorbikes.

Other issues that can be explored include the quality of road surfaces, police resources, lighting and speed limits.

We believe it is important to highlight the research that backs up our objectives:

• To advocate for the introduction of non-selective roadside sobriety testing

• To advocate for the effective use of speed-camera technology

• To advocate for the introduction of a mandatory graduated licensing programme for Bermuda’s road users

• To raise awareness of road safety and encourage a grassroots, community-wide effort to effect change

The objectives are supported by other organisations, including A Piece of the Rock, the road safety pressure group and our official partner in Drive for Change, as well as the Bermuda Police Service, the Bermuda Road Safety Council, anti-alcohol abuse charity Cada, emergency doctors and EMTs at the Bermuda Hospitals Board.

The targets have also been supported by Joseph Froncioni, an orthopaedic surgeon and road safety expert, who is also a former chairman of the BRSC.

Drive for Change will be releasing more research in the coming days and weeks.

Why should our road-safety objectives be a priority in Bermuda?

The Health in Review Report (2nd Edition), released at the end of 2017 by the Ministry of Health, offers a global comparison for Bermuda’s road death and injury rates. The report shows that Bermuda’s road mortality rate is close to three times the average for member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development — and that figure is mostly owing to the rate among males. Bermuda is 37th out of 42 OECD and affiliated countries for male mortality and for overall mortality is at 15 per 100,000. The only countries with higher rates are Mexico, Colombia, Russia and Brazil.

“External causes are a major contributor to premature death and preventable death. In Bermuda, the main causes of death due to external causes are related to transport accidents (or collisions)”, the report said.

Visit the Health in Review Report here

The charity BermudaSMARTRISK, founded in 2001 but now defunct, released the results of its study titled Road Traffic Crashes in Bermuda 2003 to 2004. Carried out by BermudaSMARTRISK founder Dr Froncioni along with coauthors, Jennifer Attride-Stirling and Marcelo Ramella, the study was the largest of its kind in Bermuda.

Using 2003 and 2004 data on all road-traffic injury cases presenting at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital emergency room in that period [close to 4,000], the study looked at the demographics and severity of road injuries for residents and tourists, and formulated recommendations.

The recommendations of the report included mandatory motorbike instruction and graduated licensing; increased police presence on the roads; well-publicised sobriety checks at peak injury times; mandatory breathalyser and/or blood/urine testing for all involved in a crash; increased access to public transport and taxi services at peak injury times; and speed cameras.

Enforcement of proper helmet fastening was also recommended to reduce the number of head injuries. The report revealed that head injuries account for three quarters of all road fatalities.

In a section on an upward trend in resident injuries, the report highlighted “increased policing that is mindful of the Tumin Report recommendations” [a 1992 report that recommended certain policing restrictions including “that mandatory prison terms for road-traffic offences be abolished” and “the consecutive use of periods of disqualification from driving be discouraged”]

See the SmartRisk media release and recommendations attached.

See the Tumin Report here

Dr Froncioni gave a presentation titled Road Traffic Injuries in Bermuda: Truth or Consequences at Bermuda’s Road Safety Summit in February 2015. In a section on speed, Dr Froncioni noted: “After a crash, we do not see the speed but rather the error that triggered the crash as the cause. We forget that for all parties involved in a crash, correcting a driving mistake is highly dependent on the speed of travel. Speed is the behavioural variable that has the highest correlation with crash risk.”

Among the figures presented were that in Bermuda, since the mid-1990s, average speed has increased by about 22 per cent, resulting in approximately a 67 per cent increase in road injuries and more than an 80 per cent increase in deaths. “The UK has implemented strategies to reduce speeds and now has the lowest rate of road death in the EU,” Dr Froncioni said.

A 2006 study titled Alcohol in Europe: A Public Heath Perspective explored how sobriety testing and reducing the level of alcohol in blood have helped to reduce fatality rates in Australia, Europe, the United States and other countries.

It reported: “The drinking-driving policies that are highly effective include unrestricted (random) breath testing, lowered blood-alcohol concentration levels, administrative licence suspension and lower BAC levels for young drivers.”

Drive for Change is pushing for non-selective breath testing — pulling over every “nth” vehicle — as it eliminates the risk of profiling.

The study added: “The World Health Organisation has modelled the impact and cost of unrestricted breath testing compared with no testing. Applying this to the Union finds an estimated 111,000 years of disability and premature death avoided at an estimated cost of €233 million each year.”

Australia is one of the countries with the most experience of random breath testing. The result was that fatal crash levels dropped 22 per cent, while alcohol-involved traffic crashes

dropped 36 per cent.

“Recommendations exist as to how the effectiveness of school-based programmes might be improved. On the other hand, mass media programmes have a particular role to play in reinforcing community awareness of the problems created by alcohol use and to prepare the ground for specific interventions.

EU report can be seen here

To view the reports in PDF format, go to royalgazette.com