PM: We must review traffic laws

Indicating that the government must bring about harsher penalties for serious road traffic offenses, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said he asked the law reform commissioner to review the matter “so that we can have proper legislation to deal with modern day society”.

He was responding to a United States Department of State report titled, ‘Bahamas 2019 Crime and Safety Report’, which raised serious concerns about crime and traffic fatalities in The Bahamas, among other things.

“It’s coincidental because just on Tuesday, I expressed similar concern to my Cabinet colleagues that we must look at the traffic legislation because our fines must be much harsher that what we are seeing,” he told reporters while on Inagua Wednesday.

“There must be vehicular manslaughter.

“We must look at that because it is insulting for individuals who have knocked to hit down a particular individual and they subsequently die and it is just basically a slap on the wrist.

“I think that can have series repercussions in the international community with time.

“I think the fines need to be a lot harsher.

“I have spoken to the law reform commissioner and asked them to look at traffic fines, violations etc. so that we can have proper legislation to deal with modern day society.

As it relates to road safety and road conditions, the report pointed out there was a 29 percent increase in traffic-related deaths in 2018 compared to the previous year.

It noted that some traffic accidents have involved tourists.

“Cars have struck tourists who failed to check properly for oncoming traffic; vehicle have struck runners and cyclists,” the report read.

It continued, “Driver occasionally display antagonistic tendencies and drive recklessly, passing on the right into oncoming traffic. Many motorists disobey stop signs, speed limits and traffic signals.”

It also said while police have increased enforcement of traffic law, it remains less than the standard in the U.S. and visitors, particularly pedestrians, cyclists and runners should “exercise extreme caution”.

“While it is against the law, drinking and driving is common; police infrequently enforce the ban, resulting in numerous traffic accidents and fatalities, including some involving tourists on foot or on motor scooters.

“Traffic accidents pose a safety hazard in some parts of The Bahamas, primarily due to intolerant drivers speeding and driving recklessly.”

The report also expressed concern with the safety of the road networks on numerous Family Islands, indicating that they are often poorly lit and are in need of maintenance and repair.

In March, Parliament passed amendments to the Road Traffic Act that would criminalize the use of cellphones while driving and having open alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle.

It would also make the failure of driver to produce his or her name and address; the name and address of the owner of the vehicle or certificate of insurance relating to that vehicle, a criminal offence.

A driver would also be required to pay all outstanding traffic offense-related fines before he or she can be granted a driver’s license of a public service driver’s license, the bills notes