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DeSilva calls for complete road safety review

Commisioner of Police Michael DeSilva (Photo by Mark Tatem)

A wholesale review of all aspects of road safety is required to tackle Bermuda’s alarming road fatality rate.

The call from Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva comes after three deaths on the Island’s roads in the last two weeks, while a further two motorcyclists remain in intensive care after accidents.

Mr DeSilva told The Royal Gazette that static, roadside cameras could have a role to play in Bermuda to reduce serious accidents, but dismissed the suggestion that speed limits needed to be changed.

He also cautioned that there was “no one solution” to the persistent problem, and a change of driving culture was needed.

“We have bigger, more powerful bikes and cars with a road infrastructure that has not developed since the 1970s or 80s at best, and there are more cars and bikes on the road than ever before,” said Mr DeSilva.

“We cannot arrest or ticket our way out of this problem; we have to change drivers’ attitudes and behaviours through education and raising awareness.

“The sobriety checkpoints mentioned in the Throne Speech are not the single solution to this problem.

“We also have to look at whether the legislation we have and the licensing regime we use is fit for purpose.

“There is a disparity in the Traffic Offence Penalties Act and brand new offences.

“Talking on a cell phone can result in a $500 fine, then you look at a $50 fine for failing to stop which has not changed since I joined the Police Service in 1985.

“There is significant scope for a review to see if there needs to be parity or adjustment to determine whether any of the penalties are out of whack.

“Is the licensing regime or the skills assessment for motorbikes robust enough to produce competent and safe drivers? This is another factor that needs to be reviewed.”

On December 21, Shawn Williams, 23, of Paget, died after he lost control of his bike and crashed into a tree on Paynter’s Road in Hamilton Parish.

Stephen Edwards, 19, of Sandys, died on December 31, the day after a collision on South Road, Devonshire.

Timothy Wright, 62, of Warwick, died on New Year’s Day, after a two-vehicle collision on Parsons Road, Pembroke, the day before, to become the sixteenth road fatality of 2014.

On Monday, Jereme Cumbermack, 33, of Sandys, died as a result of a collision on Middle Road in Warwick near the junction with Morgan’s Road.

Mr DeSilva said that Police would continue to crack down on road traffic crimes, but he warned that “throwing handcuffs” at offenders would not solve a problem that required individuals to take personal responsibility for their actions.

The Commissioner said: “We have to avoid a knee-jerk reaction to a spike in any crime whether it is fatal accidents or gang violence.

“In the last five years around 26 people have been shot and killed, whereas in the same period 82 people have died on the roads.

“With that sort of stark ratio are we putting our full enough attention on the roads? The answer must be no.”

But he added: “Many fatal collisions and a large number of serious collisions are attributed to impaired driving or speeding or a combination of both.

“Fixing the roads is not enough, a new driving licence regime is not enough, increased penalties is not enough and ticketing people is not enough. All of them need to be done as part of a broader approach.

“I would like to see a more hard-hitting campaign to tackle drink-driving as part of a larger awareness drive.

“Changing speed limits in certain areas would not have any impact at all. There is a place for static speed cameras in Bermuda. But I would not support the proliferation that happened in the UK.

“We could use them not necessarily just to catch people but deter people at accident hot spots.”

“Everyone wants to know what the single answer to this problem is, but the sad reality is that there is not a single answer. Nothing in isolation will have any impact on what is happening on Bermuda’s roads.”