By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
CHANGES to the Road Traffic Act meant to save lives were passed in the House of Assembly yesterday.
The Road Traffic Amendment Act 2019 was passed in one sitting of Parliament after being tabled last September.
Transport and Local Government Minister Renward Wells told the House before the passing of the amendments that the government hoped to disrupt increasing traffic fatalities, which are now ranked among the common causes of death in the country.
Road traffic accidents are now the 13th highest cause of death in the country and without legislative changes, the government believes this will continue.
During her contribution to the debate, Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin noted that breathalyser provisions had still not been activated.
According to National Security Minister Marvin Dames, there were 63 traffic fatalities last year which represented a 29 percent increase from 2017. He said unfortunately, resulting from those 63 accidents were the deaths of 69 victims, reflecting a 28 percent increase from the previous year.
Of the traffic fatality victims by island, 42 of the fatalities occurred on New Providence, 11 on Grand Bahama and 10 on the remaining Family Islands, he said.
As a result, lawmakers passed amendments that will criminalise both the use of phones while driving and driving with an open alcoholic beverage.
Motorists will also immediately have to produce proof of insurance and a driver’s licence upon the request of a police officer.
The amendment also requires the payment of outstanding traffic offence fines before renewing a driver’s licence.
Driving instructors will further be prohibited from holding electronic devices under the bill but the stipulation will not apply to those driving emergency vehicles or a vehicle that is lawfully parked and not impeding traffic.
A person failing to adhere to these provisions would be liable to a fine not exceeding $1,000, according to the amendment however Mr Wells told The Tribune yesterday this would be reduced to $500.
The amendments also mean motorists will be perfectly within the parameters of the law if they make a cautious left turn on a red traffic light.
The amendments will have to be passed at the Senate level and then published in a gazette before they are officially enacted and become law.
“It is legislation for life,” Mr Wells said. “It is legislation to save lives.
“Mr Speaker, those who chose to behave responsibly should not continue to be put at risk by those who do not and we in this government will not allow this to continue,” Mr Wells also told the House yesterday.
“Distracted driving has caused many unnecessary and untimely deaths. Texting and driving increases the risk of an accident by about 32 percent. The Bahamas will now become the 33rd country to enact such laws.”
He continued: “We want the Bahamian people to know and understand that they will be able to use their cell phones if it is blue toothed through their cars or ear sets that they will wear. We want all and sundry to understand that the law requires when you are driving you are supposed to have both hands on the wheel, so if you want to text you should probably pull over to the side of the road because the two or three seconds will make a difference in saving a life.”
When she spoke in Parliament, Mrs Hanna Martin argued that the fine was too high and urged the government to revisit the provision requiring motorists to produce proof of insurance immediately. She said given the prevalence of car theft in the country, this would give the upper hand to would be criminals.
Additionally, she criticised the government for failing to enact legislation drafted by the former Christie administration, adding the Minnis administration chose to use certain part of it.
She said: “My sentiments are not simply politics but genuine disappointment.
“What we do see here today, by and large, is that provisions have been pulled out, here and there, from that draft Bill, which they have been sitting on for the last two years.
“The question that has to be asked, is this administration playing games with the lives of the Bahamian people coming into this Parliament on the proverbial white horse claiming to be introducing this legislation as a commitment to road safety?
“Even if this government did not accept aspects of the policies driving the Bill, certainly the Bill must have provided a solid foundation for reform; after all this time should we have not seen some appropriate version brought forward.
“The draft Bill addressed this vexing issue specifically provided for prison sentences of up to 10 years and disqualification of driver’s licence to replace the current minimal penalties in place for causing death,” Mrs Hanna Martin also said.
“Why are we not debating amendments to this end today?” she also asked
Mrs Hanna Martin said other reforms in that draft Bill includes the creation of a National Road Safety Council, an important policy position to provide oversight of road safety initiatives for the prevention of fatalities.
joeblow 4 years, 2 months ago
It is common place in this country to see people jumping in to their cars right after purchasing a 'cold one' or two at a liquor store. Drivers using cell phones are rampant on the streets too. I would like to know HOW the government will enforce these laws!
B_I_D___ 4 years, 2 months ago
It won't be enforced...or if it is, it will be very selectively and discriminately enforced as with most of the other traffic laws.
Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 2 months ago
Gat dat right! LMAO
bogart 4 years, 2 months ago
DARK TINTS.....FOR VEHICLES WILL BE THE IMMINENT BEST SELLER.....ALL TINTS WILL BECOME SCARCE......WATCH THE LONG....LONG....VEHICLES LINING UP TO GET DARK TINTS.......EVEN THOUGH IT SOPPOSED TO BE PROHIBITED........
sheeprunner12 4 years, 2 months ago
More tips to give out ............ SMH
birdiestrachan 4 years, 2 months ago
I suppose Wells would like to appear as if he is doing something to earn his pay. What if a person has more than one Vehicle. will they be required to have two drivers licenses? If one borrows a car and their license is forgotten in their car.
This FNM Government does every thing they can to make the life of poor Bahamians very hard,
hrysippus 4 years, 2 months ago
birdieScream, you carry your license in your wallet or purse and not in the vehicle that you are driving. Sigh...….
gemmaparadise242 4 years, 2 months ago
oh my god this has got to be the dumbest comment I have seen in a minute
BahamaRed 4 years, 2 months ago
Exactly, your drivers license should be in your wallet or purse, and your proof of insurance should be in the glove compartment of the car.
What's so funny is in the USA you must have these things on you at all times, and the MILLIONS of people there comply. Why is it so difficult for a few thousand people to comply.
As I always say " Bahamians like SLACKNESS."
birdiestrachan 4 years, 2 months ago
Some women have many pocket books. I am just saying.
BahamaRed 4 years, 2 months ago
Well if you've got more than one wallet, it is up to you to remember to switch out your credentials. Aside from it being required to drive, it is a form of identification. And one should always strive to have identification on them.
ThisIsOurs 4 years, 2 months ago
Is that a thing? :-
"amendments also mean motorists will be perfectly within the parameters of the law if they make a cautious left turn on a red traffic light."
I hope they clarify this, because I see people trying to beat the traffic that has the right of way long before this law pass. Saw a bus this morning making a turn ACROSS an intersection, with their light on red of course, inching up on the right of way traffic going straight across the intersection. Why wasn't he ticketed? We need enforcement not more laws
mandela 4 years, 2 months ago
In the beginning and only at road blocks will it be enforced, just like the seatbelt laws, officers ride pass drivers all day and see them not wearing seatbelts and do zero, another thing if an open beer bottle is in the car not belonging to the driver because he doesn't drink, may be a passengers, is the driver then fined $500?. if that's the case it's almost cheaper to be caught with a small joint, a roach
Gotoutintime 4 years, 2 months ago
If they enforce the new regulations as well as they police the Jitneys it won't mean a thing!!
Dawes 4 years, 2 months ago
If they could make sure that there was a reliable, safe public transport and reasonably priced safe taxis at night i would push them to ban drink driving. Problem is i wouldn't be able to go out for a few drinks with what we have now.
TheMadHatter 4 years, 2 months ago
See they can always find time to make fool a** laws to affect us and tie us down - but they cant seem to get around to completing that Freedom of Information Act so we can see where OUR money is disappearing to, not to mention what debt burdens to the IDB they are placing on the backs of our grandchildren. So now they will be collecting even more money in fines which we wont know where that money is going either. Why the secrecy? Can any business with shareholders do that? No. I cant wait until next election season. Im gonna keep a warm pot of piss on my stove and just wait for them to knock on my door.
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