Five Year Sentence For Dangerous Driver – But Still No Breathalyzer Law

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A Backwards Legal System Works Without Modern Evidence Or Laws

High Court judge Justice Elneth Kentish just put a fellow away for five years for driving dangerously and causing the deaths of two persons – but the police still have no way of introducing evidence of how much a driver has had to drink. (The Nation News: A Stiff One)

Think about that folks – in practically every civilized jurisdiction in the world when there has been an accident and the police suspect the driver might have had even one beer, the driver has to blow into a breathalizer machine to prove how much alcohol is in his or her body. We know that some people can drink lots and not “look” like they are drunk, but they shouldn’t be driving. The breathalizer provides scientific evidence so there is no doubt.

Barbados Free Press has been calling for breathalizer laws and equipment for the police for two years now. In those two years we have seen some horrible accidents and even mass accidents – but our law enforcement officers have no way of testing to see how much those drivers had been drinking.

Oh… the government has promised a number of times to institute modern drunk driving and breathalizer laws, but I guess they don’t want to take a chance on catching one of their own!

As we have said before, none of this is rocket science – the laws and technology have been perfected over decades.

Yup… loved that Cricket World Cup… perhaps a billion spent on a hell of a cricket party…

… but no money for breathalizers, and old women still haul water in buckets like their slave ancestors before them.

Mr. Prime Minister: Please, Please, PLEASE call the election!

Further Reading

October 30, 2007 – More Road Deaths Than Murders: Yet Barbados Still Does Not Have Breathalyzer Laws Or Technology

August 15, 2007 – Minister of Transport Gline Clarke Finally “Talking” About Driver Breathaliser Tests – As First Suggested By By Barbados Free Press Over A Year Ago

July 25, 2006 – Barbados Government To Ban Cell Phones While Driving

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21 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Crime & Law

21 responses to “Five Year Sentence For Dangerous Driver – But Still No Breathalyzer Law

  1. Wishing in Vain

    Are you aware that this measure would mean that Owing would require in full time driver after the next election ?

    Is there also going to be a call for a Herbathalyzer to address the issue of the Deputy Prime Minister’s constant use of Herb ?

    What measures are going to be put in place for the drivers of the Barbados Police Force ?

  2. theNickster

    Curious those things weren’t purchased during the whole world-cup puppet show. Fancy cameras and monitoring equipment, too bad video doesn’t show liquor levels.

  3. Rebranded

    I fully agree with WIV on this issue. The heart of the matter is how politicians can refuse to pass laws that could curtail either their own behavior or that of their sponsors and contributors. Meantime the citizens they supposedly serve cannot be protected from drunk drivers, the incidence of which I am sure breathalyzer testing would reduce.
    It\’s shameful how quickly they passed seatbelt laws to protect us from ourselves, and yet we cannot be protected from careless drunk drivers.

  4. Waterboy

    Here is a scenario. Visiting American students (3) killed and one critical in a coma in auto accident involving another vehicle driven by an alleged drunk driver. Could be one of the dead students is the child of some important US Senator or Congressman.

    Mr. “no spin” Bill Oreilly of Fox News fame gets hold of the story and finds out we have no Breathalyzer Law etc. He keeps that story burning for weeks on end like the Natalie Holloway story in Aruba.

  5. Breathalizer testing, take drivers license, tow the car to a compund,
    there’ll be dancing in the streets cause there ain’t gonna be half of the usual traffic.
    That is only for the locals.
    Tourists found to be DUI, send ’em packing.

  6. noname

    wotabout drinkin while drivin? -saw a dude the other day in town with a big mount gay half finished in his lap-he offered me a taste but no I was walkin to work

  7. W.I.V. has a good point that it’s silly to have a weapon to test alcohol levels in drivers, but none for those who have taken drugs. Drug taking is as prevalent here as drunkenness.

    We always tend to assume alcohol was involved in cases of dangerous driving, but do we have any facts to support this? Reports out of the U.S. indicate that alcohol is a factor in over half the driving deaths there, but we are a mere county in size compared to them, with smaller distances and lower speeds.

    I think police should indicate when they think drunkenness was a factor in an accident even without breathalizers being in use. I know many drivers who when “under the influence” drive much more cautiously, even dangerously slowly.

    Cannot our road safety experts go back through the records and work out from the reports where alcohol and drugs were main factors in accidents, particularly lethal ones?

    Despite what I have said, I am in favour of breathalizer testing. Any deterrent is for the better.
    (And I don’t drink!)

  8. Anonymous

    Hello Deb,
    I am glad to hear that you don’t drink… but i was also wondering if you have a similar approach to thinking?!?

    The first paragraph makes no logical sense (maybe emotional sense i suppose)
    How does the lack of a ‘weapon’ to test drug use detract from the use of the well tested ‘weapon’ for testing for alcohol?

    In your second paragraph, the reason we have no facts to support data on alcohol influence in accidents IS THAT WE HAVE NOT IMPLEMENTED USE of the Breathalyzer.

    How can police ‘indicate when they think alcohol was a factor’ when they have no equipment to do so? … I think that your problem is that, like the politicians, you know too many people why drive under the influence (even if your friends ‘drive more cautiously when drunk…’)… i won’t even comment on that one…

    the penultimate paragraph gets even worse logically … where would this information be in the records????

    ….finally you come to a wise conclusion even though it is unsupported by all your statements…. are you trying to give me a headache? …. or wait…. you are a female?!?
    ..that explains everything – woman’s intuition!!!!

  9. theNickster

    This is all fine and good but doesn’t it imply police being in a position to intercept these “drunk” drivers. Lets face it, there are times when you can’t even see a police car for miles, there are times when the mini-vans make two or three trips overloaded and not even an MTW officer could be found. There are laws that should be followed, but if no one is around to enforce them, whats the point. As long as a person can do something without being reprimanded, they will keep doing it.

    Imagine a man and his family get side-swiped by a guy with no insurance, no valid license and would have left them and drove off if not for the witnesses. Yes police eventually got there and they did their usual posturing and taking notes, but what was done really? this joker runs to his “ole man” as he is prone to do (since this is not the first time this has happened), and he can afford a lawyer and a lot of hot air gets shot around. Would a breathalyser had made a difference, not really, the problem is the non-impartial enforcement. Either there is a law and its enforced or we all get to do what we want.

  10. Anonymous- I find it hard to believe that you could not tell if a driver was drunk without a breathalizer test. The same goes for the police. Why else do they make drivers walk a straight line, etc? Have you never been to a bar to see a person getting drunk?

    All the breathalizer test does is provide a scientific method of measurement accepted by the court.

    It is nearly always readily apparent when a driver in an accident is very drunk . It is only the borderline cases where a measurement would determine if they are below 0.08% alcohol content.

    It’s anyone’s guess how many accidents are alcohol related. I doubt we even know what percent of accidents occur in the late evenings hours of 7pm to midnight when most drinking takes place.

    A lot of information could be gathered even without breathalizer tests if we had the mind to do so. It is not good enough merely to ASSUME most (or even many) accidents are alcohol related.,

    ******************

    BFP Comments…

    Deb, sorry but you are wrong, totally wrong about the “It is nearly always readily apparent when a driver in an accident is very drunk . It is only the borderline cases where a measurement would determine if they are below 0.08% alcohol content.”

    Totally wrong.

    Practiced alcoholics almost always do not exhibit signs of drunkeness even when way above your .08%. Also in an accident, drivers say that they bumped their head or were upset and that negates any observations by witnesses that they had trouble walking, etc. That is why breathalizers were invented. Your arguments against breathalizer technology and laws are backwards and naive. Such archaic thinking about many things keeps Bajans living in the past while the rest of the west makes progress.

  11. BFP- “My arguments against breathalyzer technology and laws are backward and naive.” Strong words indeed! However, I have reread my words and can see no argument against the technology, nor the laws. Merely the implementation of them in our society.

    If you are serious about modern technology in controlling drunken driving, why not advocate the Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device legislation which exists in 46 of the 50 United States?

    Such devices would automatically prevent drivers from starting their cars when breath alcohol content is too high.

    And would you also support the legislation which most American states have which says that anyone Under 21 whose b.a.c. is above 0.02% (one quarter that of adults) is guilty of being under the influence? De Yout’ would riot.

    Our nation recently suffered tragic multiple traffic deaths on a holiday weekend. The worst ever experienced, I believe. Has it been shown that alcohol was a factor in these tragedies? If so I am not aware of it.

    This is not to suggest drunken driving does not kill. I am sure there have been alcohol related traffic deaths on our island this year, and they should have been highlighted to further the cause of Breathalyzers. Introducing Breathalyzer tests might indeed have saved some lives.

    Passing laws that are likely to be improperly implemented makes a mockery of a law-abiding society. But I suppose that’s the best we dan do,

    ********************************************

    BFP Comments

    Changing the law will eventually change the culture of drinking and driving. That happened in American society some 30 or 40 years ago, but the law had to change first.

    As to your asking, “Has it been shown that alcohol was a factor in these tragedies?”, other than inconclusive visual observations the police have no way of properly gathering evidence to show whether a driver has been drinking or not, so your question actually supports our position, not yours.

  12. yatinkinkiteasy

    A good bet is that 50% or more drivers on Barbado`s roads, Friday and Sat night after 10 pm are blind drunk, and should not be driving….perhaps in the good ole days of 30 mph laws and 10000 cars on the road , not a problem…but today, with 60000 on the road doing 50mph and more…its a real problem…and thats why we have so many road deaths…excessive speed. and alcohol…

  13. If 50% of the drivers on the roads on Friday and Saturday nights after 10pm were blind drunk, as “yatinkiteasy” speculates, it would be miracle if there were not half a dozen deaths each weekend.

    Such wild guessing only goes to show how ignorant we are of the facts.

    Take the ZR vans out of the equation for a start, and what do you have left?

    There is so much wild and irresp0nsible daytime driving, let alone the carefully organised drag racing in the wee hours, that alcohol is not necessarily the major culprit.

    If as many Bajans drive while legally drunk as is commonly accepted, it is a credit to their skills that most are still alive. Rather like the Yanks having the right to shoot each other, its an imbedded part of our culture, most unlikely to be changed- more’s the pity.

    I don’t like being put at risk any more than anyone else by iresponsible driving practices, of which driving while drunk or drugged is the worst; but that doesn’t lead me to whine that breathalyzer legislation of itself will solve the problem. It goes far deeper than that.

  14. The following comment appeared today in another thread on the same topic, and I think is relevent here:

    Hard Driver
    November 24, 2007 at 11:10 pm
    “If I have broken the law, either by speeding or reckless driving or if I am involved in an accident, then I have no problem being asked to take a breathalyser test.

    However, If on leaving a nightclub, I just turn the key in my ignition and was stopped and asked to take one, I would have a serious problem with that.”

  15. yatinkinkiteasy

    Hi Deb Thomas,
    ever ask yourself why it is “commonly accepted ” that most Bajans drive while legally drunk”??…could it be true? Where did this perception come from? Its also widely accepted that there is corruption in Government…why is this? Could it be true?
    I agree miracles happen that more people dont die on the roads here, and I also dont agree with simply pulling drivers off the road at random to do a breathalyzer test..we dont want to live in a police state.
    Perhaps a good starting point would be those establishments that offer “admission ,with all drinks included”(unlimited drinking…driving or not…)
    My friend had his only daughter killed by a drunken driver about 10 years ago.She was just 17.
    He is a different person today, still suffering depression from this loss.
    Drinking while drunk is a crime….or should be
    Killing someone while driving drunk is a more horrible crime, and I have no sympathy for someone who gets serious jail time for that.

  16. When all is said and done, “yatinkiteasy’, any step in the right direction is better than none.

    Let’s get the law changed requiring police to enforce a breathalyzer test at the time of an accident, reckless driving or speeding violation; but NOT permitting them to do random testing outside nightclubs the way Hard Driver fears.

    Let’s also see if we can’t find a way to test for evidence of drug use in such cases, too- say a blood sample.

    Then MAYBE BFP’s earnest spokesman (probably George from his didactic style) will be vindicated that “our culture of drinking and driving will EVENTUALLY change.”

    (Whether he will ever be vindicated in his astounding claim that “practised alcoholics ALMOST ALWAYS do not indicate signs of drunkenness” I very much doubt, even though there are some who conceal it quite well- including driving circumspectly).

  17. It is bare rubbish for Anonymous to maintain that “the reason we have no facts to support data on alcohol influence in accidents is that we have not implemented use of the breathalyzer.”

    (BFP echoes this in saying “That is why breathalyzers were invented.”)

    Anyone would think being “drunk and disorderly” had not been an offense against civil order for hundreds of years, probably back to Roman times. Breathalyzers were not needed to tell if a person was drunk. Police and others in authority (headmasters, parents, magistrates etc) could recogmise it at one sniff and had no hesitation in throwing drunks into jail to sober up. How come they managed this without a Breathalyzer? And kept statistics.

    DUI offenses have been commonly penalised since the Model T put drunks on the highway 75 years before Breathalyzers came along. Breathalyzer technology has merely provided subjective measurement which will stand up against tricky defence lawyers.

    Then we cannot ignore BFP’s claim that “practised alcoholics” exhibit no signs of drunkenness. There could be a kernel of truth here to consider.

    It is widely believed that Oreintals have a low threshold of resistance to alcohol. A member of my family, for instance, gets glassy-eyed drunk after one beer. Unbelievable! Yet his b.a.c. (blood alcohol content) would surely be way below 0.08%. Conversely many hardened rummies can knock back a fifth of Mount Gay in an evening and not bat an eyelid, nor waver on the road driving home within the speed limit. So which one is drunk?

    This is why so many people who drink enough to be above the 0.08% b.a.c. level but can handle it without “getting drunk” (i.e. showing symptoms of inebriation) are against use of the Breathalyzer here in Barbados. They understandably feel it unfair to use b.a.c. alone, unbacked by physical evidence of impaired conduct.

    In other words the Blood Alcohol Content standard is not necessarily a realistic indication of drunkenness in our society, merely an arbitrarily accepted measurement in North America and Europe. Restricting Breathalyzing to actual accidents, speeding and reckless driving makes sense. Beyond that, it’s another story.

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