Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite has dismissed calls for tougher legislation to curb the number of fatal road accidents here, arguing that new laws would not stop road deaths.
With Barbados recording an average of one death on the roads every six days, road safety advocates, including the Barbados Road Safety Association (BRSA), have been calling for stricter laws to improve safety.
Among the demands by the BRSA are laws to introduce breathalyzer testing and tougher penalties for motorists responsible for road fatalities.
“We have to make penalties a deterrent, set them high so they will deter persons in some cases . . . [or], start sending persons to prison because a fine, and especially a small fine, cannot replace the value on life,” BRSA President Sharmane Roland-Bowen said last November, in one of the many speeches she has made on the subject of road safety.
And just last week she dismissed as “false promises”, an announcement by Minister of Transport Michael Lashley that improved road traffic legislation would go before Parliament by June of this year.
Lashley had said during debate on the 2017/2018 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure that there would be a “comprehensive overhaul” of legislation governing the transportation sector “hopefully in June”, that would result in better monitoring and inspection of road users and improved tax collection.
However, speaking Monday in the wake of the 14th road fatality for the year, Brathwaite told the media following the opening ceremony of the Black Rock police station annex that the issue went beyond stricter laws, and was one of recklessness.
“This is unprecedented in the history of Barbados. I don’t believe that we have ever had so many road fatalities in such a short period of time. We must all be concerned because it not just a legislative issue because from what I am being told it is mostly recklessness,” the Attorney General said.
The number of road deaths so far this year have surpassed the ten recorded for all of last year, and have matched the total for 2014.
The latest victim is 49-year-old Station Sergeant Clifford Sherlock Bridgeman of #4B, Church Village, St Philip, who passed away at the scene following a five-vehicle smash up on Carrington Road, at its junction with Edgecumbe Hill, St Philip around 6 p.m. Sunday.
Reports are that the police vehicle, in which Bridgeman was a passenger, was stationary when it was struck by a vehicle driven by 23-year-old Tre Murray of Spring Hall, St Lucy, who was attempting to overtake a number of vehicles along the road.
However, rather than adopting a hard-line approach, Brathwaite is suggesting that more could be done to educate young drivers about the dangers of reckless driving, while placing some of the responsibility on the shoulders of local motorsport associations.
He said there was a worrying trend of young drivers speeding after attending motorsport events at Bushy Park, St Philip.
“It is well known that when we have car racing that the guys leave Bushy Park like if they believe that they are still at Bushy Park. These are not necessarily the guys that are actually on the track. So I believe that it is an area that all of the motoring associations would have to do their best to ensure that they not only encourage their members but the spectators to leave the fast driving for Bushy Park,” Government’s top legal adviser said.
In a swift response, President of the Barbados Motoring Federation Andrew Mallalieu said any attempt to link motorsport events to reckless driving was without merit.
“We in the federation are concerned about what appears to be the increasing number of road fatalities . . . . However, anyone who takes part in events by the federation has to have a special licence, and any infraction on the road can bring that licence into question.
“We would like to urge drivers on the public road to save their high speed driving for the track. Our experience has been that having more motorsport creates more responsible drivers because it actually helps to give those drivers an outlet. I don’t think there are more people riding horses because there is horse racing at the Garrison,” Mallalieu said.