Column: Undertaking, DUI, Crashes, Road Safety

September 3, 2015

[Opinion column written by Jeremy Deacon]

We’ve all got a story to tell about the incredible stuff we’ve seen on the roads – the undertaking, the hair-raising overtaking, the drinking and driving, the crashes we’ve witnessed.

There are those, though, who have other stories to tell – how only time can heal the loss of a loved one, the painful recuperation process, the coming to terms with disfigurement or loss of mobility, having to overcome huge obstacles just so they can lead a near normal life again.

Those who have followed what I have written in the past on this subject.

will know that I have issues with driver behavior on Bermuda’s roads and a perceived lack of urgency by successive Governments to really help tackle the issue.

In January this year, the Police Commissioner, Michael DeSilva, was quoted as saying that “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”.

He said that static, roadside cameras could have a role to play, but appeared to pointedly refer to the road infrastructure which, he said, had not developed since the 1980s despite the presence of many more bikes and cars.

Slideshow showing some of the various collisions in Bermuda in the past few years:


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Mr DeSilva correctly stated that there was no one solution, such as sobriety checkpoints, and asked whether the legislation and licensing was “fit for purpose”, pointing to a disparity in the Traffic Offence Penalties Act and brand new offences – a person can be fined $500 for talking on a cell phone and $50 for failing to stop.

In my opinion, these discrepancies seriously undermine their deterrent value. I am told the Attorney General is looking at these, but the time to act is now, not six months down the line.

The Commissioner also questioned whether the licensing regime or the skills assessment for motorbikes was robust enough and said it was an area that needed reviewing. Given my own driving test exam, I totally agree that a much more robust system should be put in place.

To all extents and purposes, Mr DeSilva was, in my opinion, pointing to an archaic system more suited to 1947 when the original Road Safety Act was first drafted.

Fast forward to April this year, when the Transport Minister announced the creation of a new Road Safety Working Group

“It is expected that the first meeting of the working Group will be held before the end of April when the terms of reference and objectives will be confirmed, said Shawn Crockwell at the time.

It is now September and we have yet to hear any recommendations from the Working Group. I know it has met at least once, but how many other times has it met? Were terms of reference ever drafted? What were the objectives? It might have been in the public interest to have known.

The Minister himself admitted he did not know how many times it has met only telling me that it has been on “multiple occasions”.

Its members are primarily drawn from the civil service, which possibly explains why progress is so slow – not many bureaucrats are known for speed [excuse the pun] after all.

I also understand that the Minister’s directives have not been followed although why that was not corrected long ago is a mystery to me and that when it finally delivers its recommendations it could be dissolved and replaced by a body drawn largely from the public sector.

Unfortunately, that means six months has unnecessarily been lost – when nothing, from a Government perspective, has happened in regards to road safety [the police did launch a campaign earlier this year, which appears to have had some success.]

Roadside sobriety testing – ie, police equipped with breathalysers – has long been mooted and although it does not need Parliamentary approval as it can be done by negative resolution it is still in the pipeline despite identification of the desired equipment.

The Minister told me that his technical people are working with the police “to get the right balance so police are comfortable with it and what they are able to do in terms of power to stop”.

“We are working out specifics with the police. What can the police do to arrest someone, can they do it? There are constitutional concerns about whether police have probable cause.”

OK, I understand that but as ‘everyone knows’ [the two most dangerous words in Bermuda] accidents are mainly caused by booze, so can this process be speeded up [again, please excuse the pun]?

The Minister believes, correctly, that a lot of the behavior we see on the roads is due to a lack of personal responsibility. I agree.

However, where I differ fundamentally is that if people are refusing to show consideration to other road users, then they should be made to via a process of public education, starting at primary school level, and enforcement: with suitable penalties.

Penalties do not always have to come in the form of fines – how about a mandatory advanced driver’s course for those convicted of DUI? After serving their ban they take the course and cannot get back onto a vehicle until they have passed.

The course does not have to be just about driving either – perhaps the real consequences of their selfish behavior could include being nurse for a day to a victim of a road crash or how about having to listen to a family about the devastating effect on their lives of seeing a loved one die in a road crash?

The police knew they needed a new road safety strategy – in part because they were getting no cooperation when asking for help to solve the gang problem. People were saying ‘no, you really p****d me off stopping me”.

They changed tack, tried to forge partnerships and instead of issuing a court summons they now often issue Motorist Advice Notices.

Officers were asked to use their discretion: has the Notice had an impact on the person by stopping them, have they listened to advice? Is that enough? It is one strike and you are out, but police believe the tactic is helping.

Despite all this, police officers I know tell me how they get calls daily from people who cannot believe what they have just seen on the roads and how it has scared them half to death.

People are driving potential weapons. They must be told and taught how to respect that. The police have significantly stepped up their actions, Government must follow suit, now.

What do you think? Leave a comment or email jdeacon@northrock.bm

- Jeremy Deacon is a 30-year veteran of the media industry and currently runs public relations company Deep Blue Communications, www.deepbluecommunications.bm. He also freelances for publications in Bermuda and overseas, and is also the Executive Officer of the Media Council of Bermuda.

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Comments (24)

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  1. sage says:

    Ridiculous when the cops claim constitutional concerns and probable cause, dealing with drunks leaving bars reeking of alcohol and taking control of vehicles, yet pull people over for no good reason under the misuse of drugs (other than alcohol) act.

    • Jeremy Deacon says:

      I think that there is a problem here in that if they pull a person over without good reason I am sure the police could be challenged by a. the driver and b. a half decent lawyer in court

      • serengeti says:

        You’re probably right. We saw recently that preventing a drunk from driving away from a bar with his family in his car will not be supported by the courts.

      • sage says:

        Any examples? Simply claiming the driver swerved, acted suspiciously, was seen driving away from known drug area (bars exempt), having dreads etc. has been more than enough grounds and are taken as gospel by the judges all these years.

  2. well conveyed…mazin what a thought and a pen can do ennit?

  3. Triangle Drifter says:

    So few comments after a whole day shows how little Bermudians care about the standard of driving.

    That or they are sick & tired of talking about it & seeing it.

    • PBanks says:

      I dunno. People seem to be sick and tired of politics, yet articles involving politics get overrun with comments.

      So it’s either a “shrug, nothing I can do about it” or they just don’t find the issue important enough in their lives.

      Heck, despite the Minister claiming otherwise, governments present and past have sat their collective butts down when it comes to addressing the issue.

      Either way, it’s pretty sad, as lives are lost and forever damaged from this culture of recklessness going on our roads.

  4. Same Old Solutions Won't Change Anything says:

    If you want people to stop drinking and driving, you need to provide alternatives. Let’s face it, Bermudians and ex-pats are going to drink. So how can they get home safely? The taxis should be regulated and taxi companies should be obligated to provide a taxi to a caller. I was once stranded at Swizzle Inn by the airport for over an hour one night because the dispatcher could not “find anyone who wants to go all the way out there”. I remember last year at Soca vs. Regae at Dockyard, watching people fight for the very few taxis that were available. I’m sure many people chose to drive that night because they didn’t want to be stuck in Dockyard for hours trying to catch a taxi home. There should be extended bus and ferry services when there are events at Dockyard or St. George’s.

    Bottom line is: the only reliable way to get home when it is late night in Bermuda is to drive. So you can increase the penalties all you want, but that will not change anything unless you make alternate transportation available.

    • Sorry Sir says:

      “Bermudians and Ex-pats are going to drink”

      You mean people. People are going to drink.

      • Same Old Solutions Won't Change Anything says:

        I’ve not heard of any problems with tourists drinking and driving on this island.

    • Sorry Sir says:

      Also, remember when CADA ran a late night bus? What did the Taxi drivers say? “You’re taking money out of our pockets”

      Maybe if taxi’s were reliable in this country we wouldn’t have such a problem. Why are they so expensive again?

      • stunned... says:

        i counted roughly 4 taxis out of the 40 or so collisions…hardly inspires any confidence.

  5. Jeremy Deacon says:

    Or you could begin the process of making it socially unacceptable to drink and drive?

  6. Jus' Wonderin' says:

    JUST FIX THE DAMN TAXI’S….ITS IMPOSSIBLE TO GET ONE LATE NIGHTS, AND DON’T EVEN START IF YOUR FAR DOWN EAST OR WEST SMFH!!! Um had to talk home numerous nights or drive!! THERE ARE NO OTHER CHOICES!!

  7. SMH2 says:

    Not all of the bad behavior is due to driving under the influence. There are bad driving habits on the roads all day, every day. Speed cameras, lots of them, and hefty fines would make some difference.

    • Toodle-oo says:

      At last ! A voice of intelligence in the wilderness .

      What is it about the level of smarts around here that as soon as the subject of road safety and accidents come up the first thing out of everyone’s mouth is ‘Drinking and driving ‘ ?

      Today I had to do a 12 mile round trip into Hamilton and back at around 10am and was (as usual) almost cleaned off of my bike in 11 separate cases . 8 involved cars and trucks , 4 were bikes . The roads were still wet.

      Were they all drunk ? I highly doubt it . They were just completely lawless and out of control like way too many are here 24 hours a day .

      That is the culture that must change , not misplacing our idiotic assumptions on people being drunk all the time .

      Unfortunately Jeremy , we’ve morphed into a society that seems to not like law and order and accountability .

    • Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

      You used the words “bad driving habits”…I would use the words “inexperienced drivers”…tcd testing…putt putt up de hill round de corner back in de yard for some serious! parallel parking!…don’t screw up there bruh coz it’s a wrap…lmao…more STRINGENT instructions on defensive driving need to be incorporated into getting a license…It, is 2015..keep up or get left behind…Life’s Hard…Wear a Helmet.

  8. Common Sense says:

    Has any one heard of a designated driver? Severe penalties, as in the UK, will stop drunk driving. We need to change our mindset about this. Two friends have died at the hand of drunk drivers.

  9. More positive says:

    Why do you not advocate enforcing the speed limit of 20mph, no other country would permit drivers to drive 40% over the posted speed limit before being pulled over by the police? Also unless a drunk driver is going very slowly the police can always pull them over for speeding.

  10. mamabear says:

    MADD made a huge change in Canada in the 90′s. the police named and shamed drunk drivers unlike here where we sweep it under the rug when there is death involved. we need the same thing…. Get mad people. Your families are dying and those who have some bike under their car due to the wrecklessness of a biker I am sure are tormented for life.
    Excellent article Jeremy

    • mamabear says:

      RIDE programs stopped people from just driving drunk. they worked to get people to areange to get a ride home safely. the program gave police the “right” to pull people. I have driven through plenty and it was a simple good evening and a look at the driver and a sniff I am sure. it waa the luck of the draw ….. drinking And driving I am sure still happens in Canada but as a young person it was ingrained that eventually you would get caught causing you to draw straws on who was driving that night. I lost about 5 friends to drunk drivers before the age of 18. Sad for young people to have to attend a friends funeral when they are so young. heartbreakiing to watch parents sob at their childs closed casket. and never being able to see them again. hard lessons that could be avoided by RIDE programs such times as 7 when happy hour is wrapping up and when the bars closed. Holidays – always a RIDE program.

  11. Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

    THE REINSTATEMENT OF THE PROHIBITION OF ALCOHOL.(The ONLY way of curbing a problem is to eliminate the cause)
    Can anyone tell me why drugs are illegal..? Whatever your answers may be…I’m quite certain that they could be applied to ALCOHOL as well, along with many more…but as usual y’all will continue to search for alternatives on how to touch the fire and and not get burned…which clearly clarifies that y’all jus’aink serz ’bout solving the problem.
    Hmmm?…how can we continue to do bad but find a way to do it safely..?

    ps. Enablers…

  12. Triangle Drifter says:

    There is a billboard I saw somewhere in the US.

    It showed a cop standing by his cruiser holding a breathalizer.

    The caption read; GOING TO BE OUT THIS WEEKEND? SO WILL WE.

    Gives you something to think about.

  13. nomoremeoney says:

    regular occurrence in dockyard, bars close late, and suddenly at 3am, there are a bunch of drunken people racing through the west end. Maybe a bite at village cafe…some swearing and yelling, throwing garbage everywhere and then riding off right past the police station at high speed. Bit of a joke i’d say. The police know this because they have cleaned up several accidents this summer. so why not put a checkpoint outside dockyard and stop everybody.Same in town, It would be a big deterrent. Works everywhere else.

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