Update on Roadside Sobriety Checks

29 November, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to provide this Honourable House and the public with an update on Roadside Sobriety Checks.

The Road Traffic (Roadside Sobriety Checkpoint) Amendment Act 2018

 Introduced measures that:

  • Aim to curtail impaired driving
  • Create safer road conditions for motorists and ultimately, save lives.

The majority of people who die tragically in Bermuda die as a result of Road Traffic Collisions (RTC’s).

Mr. Speaker, roadside sobriety checks continue to be resource-intensive for the BPS. Each checkpoint is manned by 8 to 14 officers, and there is sometimes more than one active checkpoint at a time.

Since its launch in mid-September 2018, which during that time, only the Roads Policing Unit (RPU) (about 19 officers) were trained using the Draeger device, to date, I can inform this house that all operational uniformed officers that are deployed from all three police stations are now fully trained.

Mr. Speaker, sobriety checkpoint locations have included almost every Parish.   The checkpoints take place on public roads in locations when there is reasonable suspicion that incidents involving the consumption of alcohol may take place and allow for the administration of breath tests to determine whether a motorist is driving while intoxicated.

All requests for roadside sobriety checkpoints are submitted to the Senior Magistrate and then published in the Gazette 5-14 days before the date of the checkpoint.

Mr. Speaker, during the period of January to October 2019, there have been 153 persons arrested as a result of suspicion of driving whilst under the influence. I have been informed that there have been 28 from the Roadside Sobriety checkpoints. The above arrests include those motorists who refused to provide a specimen for examination.

Those that did provide a specimen for examination indicate varying levels of alcohol consumption.  The highest categories being 9 persons in the 240-279 milligrams of alcohol range, 6 persons in 280+ milligrams and the highest level being 380 milligrams.  Please bear in mind that the legal limit is 80 milligrams.

Mr. Speaker, in regards to arrest gender, ethnicity, age, and nationality, I am able to provide the following information:

  • There were 133 males and 20 females
  • 110 of those persons were black, 25 white and the rest identified as ‘other’
  • The youngest arrested was 19 years and the oldest was 71, however, the predominant age of those arrested was 30 to 50 years of age
  • 143 were Bermudian, 1 British and 9 ‘unknown’, that is the ethnicity was not recorded. 

It should also be noted that 47 of the arrest came as a result of collisions and 106 without, evidencing a proactive approach by the BPS to identify persons driving whilst intoxicated through drink.  

Mr. Speaker, I want to highlight some of the road traffic collision data over the past 5 years with a notable and positive reduction in fatal collisions (50%+ reduction compared to the preceding 3-year period).

It is considered that roadside sobriety testing has contributed to this reduction both in operational terms (i.e. arrests) and in regards to public awareness and culture towards the dangers associated with driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, noting there is a positive shift in business support with many licensed premises offering free transport to patrons and a greater public use of taxis within the night-time economy.  

YEAR

TOTAL COLLISIONS

FATALS

SLIGHT INJURY

SERIOUS INJURY

DAMAGE ONLY

2015

1335

7

583

101

644

2016

1400

11

637

84

668

2017

1249

15

560

64

610

2018

1467

12

658

92

705

2019

1117

6

496

90

525

The Bermuda Police Service (BPS) will operate roadside testing throughout the festive period beginning on 6th December 2019.

Mr. Speaker, I have stated before that I am aware that these checkpoints may be considered intrusive and bothersome by some members of the public. However, in a country where one of the leading causes of premature death is Road Traffic Collisions (RTC’s), these checkpoints are a necessary inconvenience.

 

Mr. Speaker, I am reminded of a story believed to be written by Mr. Loren Eiseley, who was an American anthropologist, educator, philosopher, and natural science writer, who taught and published books from the 1950s through the 1970s.  

The story has been adapted over the years and goes like this….  One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…” I made a difference for that one.”  

Mr. Speaker, I am hopeful that the continuance of the roadside sobriety checkpoints will lead to a shift in Bermuda’s drink driving culture. If the roadside sobriety checks initiative will stop just one person per weekend night from operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol…. if the roadside sobriety checks will prevent one person from dying on our roads…. I believe that it is worth the inconvenience and we will have made a difference. 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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