Call for tough action to end carnage on roads
The carnage on Bermuda’s roads is a disease that needs a tough cure, according to Dr Joseph Froncioni, who has joined the board of anti drink-drive campaign group CADA.
Dr Froncioni, an orthopaedic surgeon and former chairman of the Bermuda Road Safety Council, has been calling for years for relatively simple measures, such as proper drivers’ education and roadside sobriety checks.
Asked why politicians have failed to take action — despite there being 140 deaths on the Island’s roads in the past 13 years — Dr Froncioni replied: “Drinking [and driving] is part of Bermudian culture as it was in Australia and Canada and many other places. But politics in small communities are problematic, and sometimes you know what the obvious thing to do is, but there are pressures that would make those measures unpopular.
“It takes a politician who has real fortitude, who has real foresight, to put those petty things aside, put the politics aside, and do what needs to be done to improve the health of his country. As a doctor, I think of it like a disease. Sometimes the cure is going to be painful the medicine is bitter, the injection hurts — but you’ve got to grit your teeth and do it. And we hope that this fresh batch of politicians will get a handle on the magnitude of the problem.”
There have been five fatal road accidents so far this year. The first was that of 51-year-old Andrew Peniston, who was killed after his motorcycle struck a traffic island on North Shore Road, Devonshire, shortly after midnight on January 6. Haile Matthews, 31, died in the early hours of January 18 after his motorcycle collided with a car on Montpelier Road in Devonshire. Musician and volunteer firefighter Torrie Baker, 25, died a day after his rental cycle was in a collision on Mullet Bay Road in St George’s on January 19.
Last week, firefighter Jevanie Fubler and father-of-one Jason Darrell both died as a result of bike collisions.
Nine people died on the roads during the whole of last year.
Dr Froncioni said: “The terrible start to this year of one death every six or seven days, hopefully will have shock value and will be a strong incentive for politicians to act. CADA has been pushing some of these tried and tested interventions for a long time. On the Road Safety Council I pushed it as well. I think anybody in the business of road safety has identified these interventions and has tried very hard in their own communities to have them implemented. CADA started that many years ago. We’ve been talking about it for years.”
Dr Froncioni noted that Bermuda has the highest number of road deaths per 100,000 people of all the Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development countries and compares “very poorly” to other countries in the Pan American region where the prevalence of bike riding is on a par with Bermuda’s.
He expressed concern that 16-year-olds are given bikes, which he says are “arguably the most dangerous form of transport on the planet,” without any education other than that from Project Ride, which “barely scratches the surface”.
He would like to see formal drivers’ education lessons as in Canada and the USA.
Dr Froncioni would also like to see a cultural shift in Bermuda, so drinking and driving becomes something that is “vilified” as in other countries — rather than the socially acceptable norm.
He called for increased traffic patrols by police to crack down on speeding, and roadside checkpoints to randomly check the sobriety of motorists.
“CADA and the Road Safety Council can do very little to change these things unless there’s the political willpower, “ he said.
“We can lobby, we can even do some arm twisting, but the ink-to-paper legal aspects have to come from politicians who understand the magnitude of the problem and the devastating impact these deaths have on their constituents.”
Dr Froncioni said that in addition to new legislation, large amounts of money will have to be invested in tackling the problem — although that will pay dividends in the end in terms of reduced medical bills.
“We have some meetings scheduled with the Government and we hope we are going to accomplish things. We’ve been getting good vibes from the new Government and it’s a case of pushing at it until words become actions,” he said.
Police released statistics this week showing that 140 people have died on Bermuda’s roads since the beginning of the year 2000.
The victims are overwhelmingly male — just 16 of the victims have been female.
The youngest was Tyaisha Cox, a six-year-old girl struck by a car on a pedestrian crossing near a school. The oldest victim was Don Wildman, an 80-year-old choir singer from Florida whose scooter collided with a wooden barrier on South Road, Warwick, last year.
Most of those killed were on motorcycles — but the death toll also includes nine people travelling in cars, seven pedestrians and five pedal cyclists.