The Ministry will seek Cabinet’s approval to lower the limit for blood-alcohol levels from 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood down to 40 milligrams, Transport & Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell said today [Mar 1].
Speaking in the House of Assembly, Minister Crockwell also mentioned Roadside Sobriety Testing saying, “We need a policy that allows the Police to take samples of breath right at the roadside and have that information be able to be used as evidence.”
“At present, the sample of breath taken on the roadside is indicative of the presence of alcohol, but the only admissible evidence of alcohol in the system is taken at the Police Station.
“By that time, the alcohol may have dissipated and the driver is now ‘legal’ although at the scene, at the time of arrest, they would have been impaired. So I will be asking Cabinet to approve amending the Law to permit evidential Roadside Sobriety Testing.”
Minister Crockwell continued, “These two efforts – a reduction in the allowable limit, and the ability to make roadside testing admissible in Court should go some way to both deterring offenders, and removing drivers under the influence from our roads.”
“We live on an island where drinking is a major part of our social activities. I do not want people to curtail their leisure activities; what I am asking though, is that we care a little bit more; that we take our time a little bit more; and that we drive in a way that ensures we can continue to enjoy life to the fullest.”
Minister Crockwell’s full statement follows below:
Mr. Speaker, the Bermuda Police Service recently announced the institution of its Selective Traffic Enforcement Programme or ‘STEP’ Programme as it is known; and as the Minister responsible for Transport, I acknowledge, support and applaud their efforts in ensuring the roads are safer for all users.
From the Transport Control Department, our Road Safety Officer, who has seen many different attempts at calming the roads by successive Administrations, was present with the Police, and he obviously has my support.
Mr. Speaker, both as a Minister and as a Bermudian, I have seen far too many families mourn loved ones who will not celebrate anymore Birthdays, Easters, Cup Matches, or Christmases. I wish that I could guarantee that we will not have any more road fatalities.
But Mr. Speaker, this Government, and in fact any representative of Government is not elected to hope and wish, but to listen and act; this Government has listened and now we need to act.
As the Minister responsible for Transport, it is within my remit to bring initiatives to Cabinet that address our roads; the Police and the Ministry of National Security have their role, but there are other things that can also be done to ensure that road users understand their licence is a privilege and not a right, and to make our roads safer.
Accordingly, I have had my Technical Officers review legislation and policies and we have uncovered certain initiatives that we believe can assist with the efforts to bring safety to our roads.
Firstly, the Ministry will seek Cabinet’s approval to set a lower limit for blood-alcohol levels. Currently, the permissible limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, and it is my considered opinion that it should be halved to 40 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
Mr. Speaker, I choose not to give an estimation of how many drinks one can have, because quite frankly, all driving Bermudians and Residents, need to get to the point that when they plan to go out, knowing that they will consume alcoholic drinks, they will leave their car or bike at home. It really is that simple.
When we factor how much money we may spend on a night’s entertainment, we need to add $25 for taxi fare, so that we can enjoy a full night’s fun without having to, either take a dangerous and potentially fatal chance.
Secondly Mr. Speaker, if people do wish to play Russian Roulette with their own and other road users’ lives, then we need to be able to detect alcohol when someone is driving and is impaired.
At present, if the police happen upon an accident and there are no telltale signs of drinking, the Police may conclude that alcohol did not play any part in the accident.
If on the other hand the Police happen to be driving behind a driver who is swerving, there is enough observation to warrant pulling the driver over and applying a breath test for alcohol even if there has not been an accident. But even when the driver is arrested, the sample taken at the scene is not admissible in Court.
Mr. Speaker, we need a policy that allows the Police to take samples of breath right at the roadside and have that information be able to be used as Evidence. At present, the sample of breath taken on the roadside is indicative of the presence of alcohol, but the only admissible evidence of alcohol in the system is taken at the Police Station.
By that time, the alcohol may have dissipated and the driver is now ‘legal’ although at the scene, at the time of arrest, they would have been impaired. So I will be asking Cabinet to approve amending the Law to permit evidential Roadside Sobriety Testing.
These two efforts – a reduction in the allowable limit, and the ability to make roadside testing admissible in Court should go some way to both deterring offenders, and removing drivers under the influence from our roads.
Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, in 2001, the then Government tabled, and the House debated and passed an amendment to the Road Traffic Act 1947 which would have permitted speed cameras to be utilised on our roads.
The legislation was passed, the Governor’s assent was received, but the Act was never made operational. I have been advised that the reason for not implementing the devices throughout Bermuda was that it was financially prohibitive.
In 2013, on one hand Bermuda is in the grip of a recession and spending the People’s money is something that the Government considers extremely carefully. On the other hand, it has been more than a decade since this technology was analysed and most costs of technology have dropped considerably in the intervening years; speed cameras and the requisite technology are not different.
Accordingly, I have asked my Technical Officers to consider and assess the financial and logistic feasibility of implementing speed cameras on our roads. At first it may be a Pilot Programme, but it is my intention to see a network of speed cameras across Bermuda to slow down drivers and make them aware of their speed.
The benefit of speed cameras is manifold and aside from the reduction in manpower needs, the fact that they can operate day or night, and the fact that I am certain once operational they will act as a major deterrent to speeding, I am glad that we may have the option of using technology to produce safer and more orderly roads.
Mr. Speaker, we live on an island where drinking is a major part of our social activities. I do not want people to curtail their leisure activities; what I am asking though, is that we care a little bit more; that we take our time a little bit more; and that we drive in a way that ensures we can continue to enjoy life to the fullest.
Mr. Speaker, there are two quotes that I would like to end with that succinctly deal with two aspects of bad driving. The first phrase was displayed on a sign outside of a church in the US.
It simply stated: “Honk, if you love Jesus…text if you want to meet him”. The second one is: “The driver is safer when the roads are dry…the roads are safer when the driver is dry.”
Thank You Mr. Speaker.
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