NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As he expressed the critical need for the government to curtail road traffic fatalities in the country, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said yesterday that proposed legislation to criminalize the use of cellphones while driving and having open alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle will shift the motoring public’s behaviour and ultimately save lives.
“Road traffic injuries and related deaths, more often than not, have a horrifying impact on individuals, communities and the country at large,” Dames said during debate on the Road Traffic (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2019, which seeks to criminalize the use of cell phones and other electronic devices while driving.
“It was, therefore, necessary for our government to take corrective action otherwise the problem would have gotten worse.”
He added, “It is hoped that these amendments will change the social meaning attributed to certain behaviours and can change individual behaviours.”
According to the proposed legislation, a device must be attached in full or part to the vehicle and must remain fixed to the vehicle while driving.
The bill would also make it a crime to drive with an open alcoholic beverage.
Other provisions of the bill would make the failure of a driver to produce a driver’s license on request of a uniformed officer an offense.
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.
The amendment bills were tabled in September.
The Road Traffic (Amendment) Regulation, 2019, would allow for motorists to take a left turn on a red light.
The bill notes that a driver turning left on a red signal must give way to pedestrians; and vehicles “approaching from the lane of traffic having the right of way under a green signal to enter the road the driver is entering”.
Minister of Transport and Local Government Renward Wells, who led debate on the bills, pointed out yesterday that motorists will still be required to come to a complete stop before making the left turn.
If a driver fails to produce the appropriate certificate of insurance they may be liable of $200.00 fine and/or arrested and imprisonment for a term of three months without the right to a jury trial and/or indictment.
Failure to produce a driver’s license will result in a fine of $40 fine.
Dames said the summary conviction allows for swift justice without creating a backlog in the judicial system.
According to statistics, there were 69 fatal traffic accidents in 2018, an increase of 28 per cent over 2017.
Of those traffic fatalities last year, 42 occurred on New Providence, 11 on Grand Bahama, and 10 on several Family Islands.
Seventy-seven per cent of those deaths involved men.
Forty-five per cent of victims (31 people) last year were pedestrians.
There have been 14 fatal traffic accidents for the year.
Speaking to increased technology and resources, Dames said 25 new motorcycles were deployed throughout the country, and new speed detection technology was recently acquired on New Providence and Grand Bahama, which the government expects to expand on the Family Islands in the near future.
He said priority will be given to southwestern New Providence where 15 traffic fatalities (24 per cent) occurred last year; Tonique Williams Darling Highway, near Blue Hill Heights; Beatrice Avenue, just off Prince Charles, among other areas in central and northeastern New Providence.
According to the minister, as part of the government’s closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) expansion, the government will spend an additional $3.3 million in the 2019 budget cycle to increase the number of cameras to 750.
“This new technology, while mostly intended to target prolific offenders, will allow the police to monitor busy streets on a 24-hour basis,” he said.
“It is our intent to ensure that there is a “zero-tolerance” approach to those committing serious road traffic offences.”