Police set to mount road safety campaign
Community campaigners and police are stepping up efforts to cut killer crashes and slash the “stupidity” on Bermuda's roads.
A blueprint for reducing traffic smashes and improving road safety will soon be unveiled by Bermuda Police Service.
And safety groups are hoping for tougher legislation to deter drink-drivers and reckless practices, with the Road Safety Council (RSC) criticising the dangerous motorists who are “destroying Bermuda's roads through their stupidity”.
Inspector Robert Cardwell, who heads up the Roads Policing Unit, said police were “obviously very concerned” about the number of road deaths and accidents.
He said statistics showed a downward trend regarding collisions generally, but the annual rate of collisions resulting in death was fairly consistent.
“In 2008 there were 17 road fatalities and this year there have been 6 so far — 76 in total since 2008. But in that same period there were 40 murders. Where is the risk to life in Bermuda? It's on our roads,” he said.
“In those years there were 28 gang-related murders – you're more than twice as likely to die on the roads as in a gang-related murder.
“Of the 76, Black Bermudians make up more than half of those deaths, four were guest workers and nine were tourists. The average victim's age is 35.
“Bermuda Police Service aims to make Bermuda safer and that includes on our roads — we want motorists to be safe and feel safe. There's a lot of aggressive driving.
“Our Road Safety Strategy involves three entities — police led enforcement, community-led work with groups such as CADA and the RSC, and Government-led work. The Government can influence the public and act as legislators — looking at what we can do in our legislation to further deter bad driving.
“The police don't make legislation, we only enforce it.
“We don't get pleasure out of giving people a ticket or sending people to court.”
Inspector Cardwell said police plans to cut crashes included increasing the number of officers on the road as well as raising public awareness of safe driving practices and frequent accident spots.
“Police motorcycles have an effect on the roads,” he said. “We want officers with speed radars to be visible, not hiding.
“Designated and visible road policing officers have an effect on calming the roads. Road blocks are definitely an effective model in the UK.
“In the UK, breathalysers and random checkpoints are a very useful deterrent. In the UK it is on people's minds — there's a designated driver who might have half a pint. It wasn't always that way, the culture there has changed, and we have to change our culture and attitude towards driving.
“There are penalties for speeding, impaired driving and using cellphones but people still do these things. We'll never stop it but we can reverse the trend.
“There's not a specific group being targeted, for example young drivers, we need to reach every single road user.
“Most of the fatal collision investigations reveal that either alcohol or speed is a contributing factor — sometimes both. Accidents such as these are completely avoidable.”
Inspector Cardwell is hopeful the various groups working to improve road safety can come together and get the message out to the public to slow down, do not drink and drive and pay attention.
“Raising awareness is key,” he said. “There's a lot of work going on with road safety but we need everyone at the same table and encourage better behaviour. Partnerships are key. Everybody has a role to play — it's not a police problem, it's a Bermuda problem.”
Dr Carlton Crockwell, chairman of the RSC, said they were collaborating with police on initiatives to help reduce accidents.
But he blasted the “about 15 percent of drivers” who are “inconsiderate”, “dangerous” and “out of control”.
“Some accidents are horrific — people have lost limbs, been paralysed for the rest of their life,” he said.
“People are listening for the moment but not changing, so this is a problem Bermuda will continue to have.
“We're not talking about everybody — 85 percent of drivers try their best and govern themselves well.
“But about 15 percent are dangerous and destroying Bermuda's roads with their stupidity — stupidity reigns for some people.
“We're also seeing road rage like we've never seen it before.”
Dr Crockwell criticised taxi drivers as among the road users who show “no consideration”.
“Some of the worst drivers are taxi drivers,” he said. “There's no consideration to the person driving next to them. Very few of them care about Bermuda's public on the roads.
“How many accidents have been caused by them? The roads don't belong to them. Strict measures need to be put in place for them.”
Dr Crockwell said the council encouraged legislation that improved road safety and aided law enforcement but drivers' attitudes also had to change.
“You can put legislation in place and policies in place but you need to change your mindset and save your own life. Choose to live.
“A lot of people are governing themselves but we continue to see road deaths because of careless driving.
“If you're going to have a drink, don't drive.”
CADA — which campaigns for responsible alcohol behaviour, including ending drinking and driving — supports legislation for roadside sobriety checkpoints.
They recommend that the Road Traffic Act be amended to allow police to pull over motorists at random and carry out a breath test at the roadside.
The non-selective testing means no specific group would be targeted, but rather every fifth or sixth driver would be stopped.
Public support seems to be high — 83.1 percent of people back sobriety checkpoints, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Consumption and Health released this year.
CADA chairman Anthony Santucci said: “We would like to see the legislation but it's not only us — 83 per cent of people support this. How often do we get that many people agreeing on anything?
“We're advocating for selective sobriety checkpoints and we anticipate that type of legislation.
“Our ‘Let Us Drive' initiative has taken home in excess of 11,000 people - how many lives have been saved and collisions avoided because of this?”
The Ministry of Legal Affairs did not respond to a request for comment by press time last night.