It will no longer be legal for drivers here to hold mobile phones to their ears while driving, if proposed amendments to the Road Traffic Act are approved.
However, this does not mean a total ban of cell phone use, as the amended legislation will legalize the use of Bluetooth and other hands-free devices while driving, Assistant Superintendent of the Royal Barbados Police Force Roland Stanford told Barbados TODAY.
The law currently prohibits the use of headsets, including Bluetooth headsets, while driving.
“The legislation would permit Bluetooth and that sort of thing to be used by drivers. However there are some distractions still; being hands-free does not mean that your attention is totally focused on the road. However it would be an improvement,” Stanford said following a press briefing yesterday to mark the start of Road Safety Month by the Barbados Road Safety Association at its Rendezvous, Christ Church headquarters.
Although no data was readily available on the number of road accidents here caused exclusively by the use of mobile phones, using these devices while driving is generally considered to be dangerous.
A number of countries and US states have banned handheld mobile phone use when driving unless used with some form of hands-free kit.
However, in Barbados the reverse is true. Even though a person could be charged with driving without due care and attention, there is no legal stipulation which prevents a driver from holding a cell phone.
Stanford told Barbados TODAY the irony of the situation was not lost on the police.
“The police were part of the committee [that proposed the amendments] and the proposal would have garnered the support of the police. However as I said earlier it is still a distraction, but I expect that we would see an improvement in the driving habits of Barbadians.
“ At least all of the focus won’t be taken away from what is happening ahead of you or around you. You should have both hands on the steering at all times and without one of those devices you break that basic rule,” the senior police officer said.
The proposed changes to the Road Traffic Act, including the ban on the use of mobile phones while driving, were first announced by Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley at a meeting of the St James South branch of the Democratic Labour Party last month.
Lashley had given few details then. However, he indicated at the time that wheelies would be prohibited under the amended law, which would also make provisions for the licences of public service vehicle (PSV) operators to be suspended after three offences and a minimum age of 25 for anyone who wished to operate a PSV.