Drink drivers to get immediate 18-month ban
MPs have fixed an oversight which left magistrates with discretionary sentencing powers in dealing with drink drivers.
Those caught driving dangerously or under the influence of alcohol or drugs will now face mandatory disqualification.
Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell introduced the Traffic Offences (Penalties) Amendment Act 2013, explaining that a 2012 amendment had omitted the word “obligatory” in describing sentences for the various offences.
Driving while impaired or refusing to submit to a breath test now attracts a mandatory 18-month driving ban for the first offence. A three-year ban is to be imposed for a second offence and subsequent offences carry a five-year ban.
The amendment also addresses people who drive a motor car, auxiliary bicycle, cycle, or any other vehicle other than a motor car while under the influence of a dangerous drug.
The offence carries the same penalty as driving while impaired by alcohol, with repeat offenders facing fines of up to $5,000, a ban of up to five years and as many as 12 traffic demerits.
Offenders are also potentially subject to a period of imprisonment for up to a year on the first offence, 18 months on the second offence and two years for subsequent offences.
Mr Crockwell explained that the law still allowed some discretion in sentencing but it was restricted to “special reasons” attached to the circumstances of the incident not the individual.
“Examples of special reasons might include driving someone to hospital while over the alcohol limit, driving to rescue a person from a danger and speeding to get there, driving whilst over the limit after your drinks have been spiked or laced,” he said.
Anti-drink driving group CADA today said they were pleased with the change in law.
“CADA is gratified that the technical error, made in October last year, has now been corrected,” said the organisation’s chairman, Anthony Santucci. “We are pleased that the Attorney General’s chambers and the legislature have applied the needed amendment to reinstitute the mandatory driving ban for those convicted of driving while over the legal limit of alcohol. Drinking and driving is a dangerous and deadly practice. It is unacceptable worldwide, and carries severe penalties in most countries. Bermuda should be no different.”
He continued: “There are alternatives to drinking and driving. Those who intend to drink should remember CADA’s message and put a plan in place before they leave home ABCD, Always use Bus, Cab or Designated Driver.”