The Barbados Road Safety Association (BSA) has welcomed the Road Traffic Amendment Act introduced in Parliament this morning by Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley.
The BRSA has often taken strong jabs at Lashley over delays in introducing the legislation, which had been over four years in the making, with its president Sharmane Roland-Bowen describing as “false promises”, an announcement by the minister in March that the measure would go before Parliament by June.
Among the road safety advocacy group’s longstanding demands were the introduction of breathalyzer tests to cut down on drink driving, and tougher measures for drivers found culpable for road fatalities.
The BRSA got its wish today as Lashley, who was complimentary of the association, told his parliamentary colleagues that the highly anticipated breathalyzer testing would be introduced and that training of lawmen and ongoing consultation with stakeholders would be necessary.
He also revealed that public service vehicle (PSV) operators and drivers of heavy-duty vehicles would be subjected to random drug and alcohol testing.
Reacting to the news this afternoon Roland-Bowen told Barbados TODAY she was over the moon because of the anticipated positive impact of the legislation, although she expressed concern that it could face some resistance.
“We at the Barbados Road Safety Association are elated that this piece of legislation has finally come to Parliament. We are hoping however, that it would meet no resistance from any person. This is a piece of legislation that will help to reduce collisions and deaths on our roads tremendously,” she said.
However, Roland-Bowen said the provision for random testing of PSV operators and drivers of heavy-duty vehicles should be extended to include every driver.
“We would like to go a step further where any individual at all can be stopped and inspected once the police officer has a reason to do that, or targeted breathalyzer testing. It is more of a deterrent. But yes, [we] still accept what they intend to do with the PSV because these persons have a greater responsibility because they have the lives of their passengers [in their hands] at all time,” she said.
The amended law gives trained police officers in uniform the power to carry out the breathalyzer testing and to request blood and urine samples in the case of serious or fatal road accidents.
It was in August of this year that Roland-Bowen had said she had it up to her neck with “false promises” by Lashley to introduce the long awaited revised law, as she called on the minister to make the legislation a reality before year-end.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY in the wake of the 17th road fatality for this year, the road safety advocate had said she was upset that Lashley had not delivered on the legislations which he first announced in 2013, yet he continued to refer to it as a means of easing public anxiety over rising road deaths. Seven more people have died in road accidents since.
“Mr Lashley is a politician and as a politician he is doing his job very well, which is to make promises and fool the public. They say what the public wants to hear to keep them quiet about the things that are going on around them. That’s all it is, empty promises. And we are fed up of empty promises,” Roland-Bowen said at the time.
However, today she said the amendment showed that the lives of citizens were valued, while calling for enforcement of the law to take effect before next year, when the focus will be on the general election.
“For me it is an overall win-win for all persons, the guilty and the innocent. We don’t want this legislation, after waiting so long, to go over to next year because we know next year with the elections we fear that it would get put in the latter part of the year. So we would really like to see it pushed and we would like no objection from anyone,” she said, while going on to state that she would feel better about the Act when the police officers begin training.
“We would feel a little better when we hear that the police have commenced training . . . . When they get to that stage we will know that they really mean business and we are closer to get the desired safety legislation in place. We are thankful it has gotten this far. It was a long struggle, and I always say we were going to get there. We never intended to give up,” she said.