Transport Minister Walter Roban sounded a clear warning to Bermuda’s motoring public: “Frankly Bermudians should be prepared to be uncomfortable.”
Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Minister Roban said it will take much more than a legislative approach, speed camera and roadside sobriety checks to break the “Bermudians love to drink and drive” mindset that is heavily entrenched in our culture.
After 21 reported collisions over a single weekend this past week, coupled with the 14 road traffic fatalities already recorded in 2017, the one message that rang through loud and clear was that dangerous driving, speeding and driving under the influence, will no longer be tolerated at the levels being recorded now.
Responding to questions by Bermuda Real on how he plans to tackle the task of changing the mindset, the Minister replied: “I think we have treated this issue as a country a little bit too passively, a little bit to nice.
“It’s going to start getting – I’m not going to say ugly, but it’s going to start looking uncomfortable with what you’re beginning to see because we’ve got to change each person’s behaviour on the road.
“It starts with us and we’re working as a team… and we’re hoping to draft in the rest of the country to deal with changing behaviour because it’s not just about the law it’s about the law, it’s about behaviour. We could change laws tomorrow…change the law on Friday but Saturday we have a death. That means somebody’s behaviour hasn’t been right. So we all have to change our behaviour. That’s going to be the focus.”
Flanked by the Officer in Charge of the Roads Policing Unit, Chief Inspector Robert Cardwell, and the head of Bermuda’s Road Safety Council Ali Bardgett with Junior Chair Noah Soares, and Executive Director of CADA Anthony Santucci, the Minister urged residents to “just use some common sense”, particularly during the festive season.
“Don’t ruin your families holiday by becoming a fatality or someone else’s family or putting our hospital team in stress because of the horror and the pain and the suffering that accidents bring, for them to have to treat and having to inform a family member of the loss.
“Just use some common sense everybody. It is clear that we have a crisis – let’s change our behaviour and make steps to keep Bermuda safe in this holiday season.
“We have a simple message for all drivers, especially our young drivers: slow down, slow down, slow down. Our roads have no room for error. Stop making other drivers react to your speeding and behaviour. Many don’t have the responsiveness that you have when you are riding. Our people need to stop driving while impaired by substances.
“Road traffic collisions account for 34.8 percent of deaths in Bermuda that are not due to illness or disease. In 2015, the island had the worst rate of injury of road traffic collisions of all of the 35 OECD countries.
While police will focus their energy “on the most at-risk behaviours on our roads that threaten life” over the holidays, Mr Cardwell said based on statistics alone, this Christmas season, like many others, “we will lose another life on the roads”.
“While not intending to sound morbid – the reality is could this be you, could this be your loved one?
“Who will be the family that the police will have to track down to advise that your loved one has died in a road traffic collision?
“In the period between Friday and Monday last, there were 21 collisions. This saw people severely injured and hospitalised in the ICU. In the two weekends prior to this there were seven collisions over those weekends,” said Mr Cardwell.
To counteract the constant carnage on our roads, he said the Bermuda Police Service (BPS) will be “realigning resources to ensure that we have a robust preventive policing presence on our roads”.
“To Bermuda, Bermudians, visitors and our guest workers, do not become a statistic,” he said. “Slow down, do not drink and drive and do not allow anyone else that you are will to drink and drive. Take their keys. It is worth it. Everyone will be missed by someone.”
Road Safety Council (RSC) Chair Ms Bargett said: “We cannot afford to lose anyone else in 2017, we are at 14 already and the countless life changing injuries already suffered on the roads.
“Five people every day going to KEMH for treatment following collision – the cost to Bermuda is out of proportion to our size, scale and ability as an educated country. When you get on that bike or behind that wheel, tell yourself, ‘not one more’ and ‘I’m not going to be the next’.”
RSC Junior Chairman Noah Brady-Soares, appealed to his teenaged peers when it comes down “to making smart decisions” while “out riding on the roads”.
“I understand that we all may think we are ‘Top Riders’, and that nothing is going to happen to us while on the roads, but one never knows… I would like to emphasize that when you get on your bike and your are wide-open down the road, just remembers that if you get hurt, you are also hurting your family, as well as somebody else possibly.
“Nobody likes to get a phone call saying their loved one has been involved in a collision. I understand that we may think rules are ‘stupid’, however they are implemented for our benefit and safety. We have all been there when a friend needs a ride home, and it’s just down the road, but on the way, if something happens and you are involved in a collision or pulled over how will you feel. While you feel that you might be helping, you are breaking the law and however innocent the act might be, the law is the law, and we must abide by it.
“So as we go into this holiday season we must be mindful that while we will be at parties with family and friends, we also need to remember to make smart choices, and if need be call our parents or a trusted friend for that ride, and not suffer any consequences later.
CADA spokesman Anthony Santucci noted that since 2008, there have been 117 fatalities on Bermuda’s roads. “For every fatality… there are roughly 200 people admitted to KEMH.
“What that represents is that since 2008 there have been in excess of 23,000 individuals going to the hospital because of road crashes. Bermuda road crashes and fatalities truly is an epidemic in this country and must be addressed.
He also issued a reminder that CADA’s ‘Let Us Drive’ service will be available on December 9, 16, 23 and 30. “To date, this programme has taken home in excess of 16,956 individuals.” And he urged party goers to take advantage of the free service offered.