Sweeping new regulations are coming that will outlaw the use of cell phones while driving, ban stunts on the roads and those who organize such activities, make it illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and introduce breathalyzer testing for drivers.
Moreover, Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley told the House of Assembly today that Government was also raising the minimum age for holding a licence to drive heavy duty vehicles or public service vehicles from 18 to 25-year-old.
Those were among the major changes outlined by the St Philip North MP in the House of Assembly as he led debate on the Road Traffic Amendment Bill 2017.
Lashley told the House that there was a serious lack of data on drunk driving in Barbados even though it was known to play a role in many vehicular accidents.
“We can’t wait until it gets out of hand; we can’t wait until it climbs, we need to have the breathalyzer to act as a deterrent and to save lives,” the minister said.
According to Lashley, the amended Road Traffic Act will address the problem of distracted drivers, particularly those using cellular phones.
He said the new traffic laws would also prevent persons teaching would-be drivers from also using cell phones while they were instructing.
In his presentation, the Minister told the Lower House said it was necessary to increase the age of persons allowed to drive public service vehicles because of the level of responsibility that came with such as a job, and the need for drivers to display a level of maturity.
Lashley told the House that having consulted with several related entities such as insurance companies and road safety groups, it was accepted that drivers in the younger age group tended to be involved in a significant number of road accidents.
He noted that in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, the road traffic laws were changed to increase the age for hiring a car from age 18 to 21.
Lashley also raised concerns about the about the illegal practice of changing engine numbers on vehicles that had been stolen, noting that MTW was seeking to address the issue through the inspection process for vehicles by that department.
At the same time, Lashley admitted that the Ministry of Transport and Works was under tremendous pressure dealing with the more than 130, 000 vehicles on the country’s roads,
In this connection, he explained there were only five traffic inspectors who worked from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and after those hours, it was up the Royal Barbados Police Force to ensure compliance with the island’s road traffic laws.
Lamenting the number of road deaths and serious accidents, the St Philip North MP said it was the aim of MTW to ensure safety on the roads and on public transport.
As a result, he said the ministry aimed to reduce by 50 per cent the number of road accidents with injuries by the year 2020.
He also revealed that a major public sensitization programme was coming to make Barbadians aware of the news regulations.