In the past two decades alone, 227 people lost their lives on Bermuda’s roads as a result of road traffic accidents between 1997 to 2017.
That averages out to be 11.3 deaths per year.
These are just two sobering statistics contained in the 2019 Green Paper on Transport based on figures provided by the Bermuda Hospitals Board, which shows that 1,685 people were treated for road traffic accident related injuries in 2016.
That translates into $3,473,295.65 in medical costs. Of the 1,685 accident victims injured that year, 189 were admitted for hospital treatment, to the tune of $3,412,090.10.
Fifteen fatalities were recorded that year, with another 1,689 people injured between January and December in 2017, who were treated at either King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH) or the Urgent Care Centre in St David’s.
“The medical charges amounted to $2,686,380.46.”
“Of the 1,689 people injured, 172 were admitted to KEMH – the medical charges amounted to $3,157,833.67.
“There were 15 fatal accidents in 2017.”
Eighty percent of the victims were males, and 93 percent “were either driving an auxiliary bicycle, motorcycle, livery cycle, or were a passenger on a motorcycle”.
Roadside sobriety checks were implemented after legislation was passed in 2018. when the Bermuda Road Safety Council also launched their new ‘Operation Caution’ strategy,, which is “a five-year plan for saving lives in Bermuda”.
On Bermuda’s “culture of poor driving results”, the report pointed up the following issues:
b. driving drunk
h. running late
i. discourteous and
j. inconsiderate of others
Other issues include damaged roads, a lack of sidewalks, dark tinting on vehicles and helmet visors, too many large cars and trucks on the road, and heavy load factors on bridges.
Having said all of that, what does the Bermuda Government’s 2019 Green Paper on Transport say about road safety in Bermuda?
It starts with the call for “more police presence” on Bermuda’s roads with “better enforcement of road traffic legislation”.
The Bermuda public also called for “a plan to stop speeding, drunk driving, distracted and third lane driving behaviours”, with “enhanced education and training programmes to produce safer drivers”.
Mr and Mrs Joe Public also called for safer road surfaces and bridges; more sidewalks; greater restrictions on dark tinting on vehicles and visors; increased traffic fines; the reduction of congestion; and for motorists to use more courteous driving habits.
The report also noted that “the primary objective of the Bermuda Road Safety Council (BRSC) is to ensure compliance with
general traffic laws and increase awareness of the results of making bad decisions on our road”.
“Promotions continue to focus on speeding and drunk driving as these issues are of great concern,” the report said.
“The goal of the Road Safety Programme is to promote road safety awareness through education, training and public awareness. As such, the activities of the programme are coordinated by the Road Safety Officer within the Transport Control Department, as well as the Road Safety Council.”
But the question remains, is the council’s road safety awareness campaign working?
Mandated to devise “strategies and programmes to address key problems”, the Council “in conjunction with the Road Safety Officer, recommends legislative changes”.
“The Road Safety Officer also coordinates the Project Ride Programme offered in Bermuda’s public and private senior secondary schools.”
To “change the culture of reckless driving and riding” moving forward, the report said the three main approaches are “education, enforcement and engineering”.
“These tools help to reduce road traffic collisions and fatalities.”
Stakeholders called on government to “change the drunk driving culture” by implementing “a more robust road safety programme” and “increase the road safety education of students from an earlier age”.
Residents also called for “on the spot” fines for drunk driving by police, who they say should have the authority to impound the “driver’s vehicle for one year”, with increased fines and demerit points for driving without due care and attention.
Proposed changes for Traffic Court include linking the Transport Control Department’s system with the court system so that drivers with “outstanding traffic fines” cannot relicense their vehicles.
Residents also called for higher penalties to “s Stop third lane driving and overtaking on the inside left by cycles” and the installation of speed cameras “as soon as possible”, especially in “frequent collision spots”.
Stakeholders also called for the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 and for the courts to “dispense with court dates for minor traffic offences and put tickets in the mail”
If the tickets are “not paid within ten working days, arrest the driver and then go to court”, the report said.
Residents also called for “higher fines for people driving while on the phone” and “incentives for good driving behaviours” like fuel discounts or car washing discounts.
Other recommendations include:
• Show collision movies to students to demonstrate the detrimental effects of riding a motor cycle dangerously
• Reduce the legal blood alcohol content level to zero for all drivers
• Increase fines for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs to a minimum of $2,000. Judges have the right to charge $1500 for a first time offence, plus points and time off the road
• Ban overtaking on Harbour Road
• No heavy trucks should be allowed to travel on Harbour Road unless they have a ‘work order’ for service
• Install more mirrors at blind spots
• Stop excessive dark tinting on vehicle windows as very dark windows prevent other drivers and pedestrians from seeing a driver’s facial expression
• Introduce road safety signs to provide a short, sharp reminders on topics such as drunk driving speeding, third lane driving etc
• Crosswalks and crosswalk traffic lights should be consistent island-wide
• Increase funding to enable better maintenance of roads
• Replace bridges in St. George to safely handle bigger load capacities
• Implement a better roadside tree trimming progamme
• Take inventory of and fix blind and hazardous junctions