Police reveal tactics to calm Island’s roads
Police plan to reach out to drivers through a system of “motorist advice notices” as part of a campaign to promote safer driving skills.
This will replace the informal “yellow card” strategy adopted in 2011, in which officers were given licence to issue the card equivalent of a verbal warning instead of automatically writing tickets.
The advisories are aimed at reinforcing the “Drive Safe Bermuda” message, in the aftermath of a spate of road deaths that has provoked public alarm over speeding, careless overtaking and dangerous use of the roads.
The Bermuda Police Service’s road safety strategy, issued yesterday, also acknowledges the visibility of police motorcycle officers as a deterrent to bad driving. The document recommends analysing and monitoring hot spots for collisions so that officers can police at-risk areas, and proposes making better use of the Island’s network of security cameras — including the CCTV network’s Automated Number Plate Recognition technology — to catch offending motorists.
It suggests enabling the camera technology to spot speeders and drivers who disobey traffic signs and signals.
At a media conference about the campaign yesterday morning, Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva said the technology was not yet in effect.
The force has recently emphasised that the Island cannot police its way out of what many perceive as a widespread disregard for road safety, and today’s document reiterates that point. At the media conference, in response to a question about speed cameras, he said: “There is no single answer to this.”
Reducing collisions and road deaths requires “a shift from a visible target-driven enforcement alone, to one that is balanced with performance around engagement with the motoring public”, according to the strategy, which was authorised by Mr DeSilva and written by Inspector Robert Cardwell.
It continues: “This involves enabling officers to use their discretion and professional judgment to deliver safer roads, as well as changing and improving driver behaviour.”
The document points out that month over month, and on an annual basis, collisions are trending down, although road deaths have been fairly consistent.
From 2008 up to and including 2014, the Island recorded 86 road deaths.
In an overwhelming majority of deaths, “alcohol consumption and/or speed are an aggravating factor either singularly or in combination”.
The road safety strategy links the present decline in collisions to the shift of resources by Police to counter guns, gangs, drugs and violent crime.
A rise in police visibility on the roads may have “inadvertently had an impact on driving behaviour and collision statistics”, the document says, adding that the downward trend in collisions is likely to taper off.
“Risk-taking and aggressive driving/riding, which amount to offences of dangerous driving and driving without due care and attention, are widespread and even more evident during peak periods of rush-hour traffic,” the document continues, noting that overtaking is lawful where safe to do so, and where it does not force other drivers to deviate.
A “road safety coalition” is called for, with close collaboration between stakeholders to inform the work of Road Safety Council, which can recommend new or amended legislation.
“Continued proactive policing of the roads is well-established in Bermuda and other jurisdictions as an effective target,” the document concludes.
“It reduces antisocial driving behaviour, denies criminals the unchallenged use of the roads and is an effective measure for preventing and detecting crime.”
Insp Cardwell, responding to questions at the press conference, said that speeding was “by far” the most prevalent traffic offence, followed by inattention offences and failure to stop at traffic lights. Driving without due care is another common offence.
“We’re not looking to just book people,” he said. “And we’re not giving people breaks — we’re taking advantage of an opportunity.” he said. “If they get it, accept our advice, it will change their behaviour in the future.
“The main thing is to protect life and prevent crimes.” Prosecuting people is a lower priority, he said.
The introduction of roadside sobriety testing by way of an amendment to the Motor Car Act 1951 will have to wait for the lawmakers. “We welcome a review of the legislation,” Mr DeSilva said.