Another year without modern anti-drunk driving laws
Be careful out there!
As Independence Day, Christmas and the new year arrive, BFP wants to remind our readers to have fun, but be careful because drunk drivers think that they are “the reason for the season”.
Our friends at the Barbados Road Safety Association recently placed 28 markers at various places around the island to remind us that Barbados is averaging 28 road fatalities a year. We thank them for that valuable service and the good work the BRSA does all year.
And we confess that we loved it earlier this year when BRSA President Sharmane Roland Bowen asked “Are the police looking for someone to do their jobs for them?”
The BRSA publicity campaigns save lives. Folks see the crosses and slow down. They read about the campaign and plan how they will get home before they have their first drink and maybe grab the car keys from a friend who’s had too much. Who knows how many lives have been saved by the BRSA’s efforts? Maybe even your life or the lives of your loved ones and friends.
But publicity campaigns can only do so much. If we want to change the culture of drinking and driving in Barbados, we must enact modern laws and give the police the tools to protect us.
Barbados Police lack the laws and the tools to stop impaired drivers
For years our elected lawmakers promised to implement modern laws to stop the slaughter on our roads. It didn’t happen because they didn’t care enough about the deaths of innocent people to see saving five or six lives a year as a worthy goal. Strong words I know – but maybe some politician can let us know why they as a group failed to act in the last ten years. (Comments are open at the end of the article.)
Under current laws a driver has to be falling down drunk before the police can make an arrest and protect the public. Under current laws our police officers have no way of determining how much a driver has had to drink. Some practiced drinkers are able to look like they are in control, but when they drive it’s like firing a shotgun at random into a crowd.
Even in fatal accidents, officers of the Royal Barbados Police Force have no power to require a driver to take a breathalizer test.
Everyone on this island knows that you can drink and drive in Barbados without fear as long as you keep on the road, don’t hit anything and don’t puke on the nice police constable if he stops you. That is the way it is. That’s our culture, but this part of our culture is killing people at 240% the rate in the United Kingdom*.
The BLP did nothing in 14 years of government to stop the carnage. Since taking office almost three years ago, the DLP government has done nothing to introduce breathalyzer laws and equipment to Barbados, or to stop the drunken slaughter on our roads every weekend that kills outright or cripples people for life and destroys faces, families and livelihoods.
The DLP and BLP politicians have no reasonable excuse for not enacting breathalyzer laws.
What should be done?
Implement breathalyzer technology and laws, along with a public educational campaign on the laws and the costs of drinking and driving. We lose more people to drunk drivers than to murder but the politicians and the police still don’t get it.
We’re talking about a cultural change and that takes time, so we’d better start now. Contrary to what some otherwise fairly intelligent people say: you CAN legislate morality and you can change public culture through legislation. Laws at their heart are about the morality of any society.
Change the laws and the public consciousness and compliance will follow. If individuals do not wish to change their standards for drinking and driving, for the second offense in a three or four year period throw them in jail for a while and seize their vehicles. If they drive again during a two year period of suspension, put them in jail for the remainder of the suspension. People will soon change their ways.
We’re talking about preventing murder. We’re talking about preventing the destruction of families, faces, bones and businesses. Drunk driving has reached unbelievable heights in Barbados even by Caribbean standards. To a large degree this is the fault of the politicians and the police for failing to take action.
It is high time they did.
* How we arrived at the 240% figure
Figures lie and liars figure: but we did our best!
Depending on who you believe (and that’s another article for another day), Barbados has a population of between 255,872 (World Bank 2009) and 285,653 (CIA 2010). We’ll take the CIA population estimate because it makes us look better in the stats.
Barbados population 285,653 divided by the number of accidents a year 28 = 10163.89, so 1 fatal road accident per 10201 people per year or 9.8 fatal road accidents per 100,000 population.
According to the UK Department for Transport, there were a total of 2,538 fatalities in road accidents in 2008. (pdf here)
The population for the UK is 62,348,447 (CIA 2010) 61,838,154 (World Bank 2009)
UK population 62,348,447 divided by the number of fatal road accidents 2,538 = 24565.97, so one road fatality per 24,566 people per year or 4.07 fatal road accidents per 100,000 population.
Thus, Barbados road deaths happen at a rate 240% greater than in the UK.