Operators of public service and heavy-duty vehicles will be subjected to random drug testing under the amended road traffic legislation introduced in Parliament this morning, Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley has announced.
At the same time, the minister said the much talked about breathalyzer testing would become a reality under the Road Traffic Amendment Act.
Leading debate on the Act, Lashley pointed to the 24 road deaths recorded here so far this year, blaming some of the serious accidents on drivers “using drugs or alcohol or some other substance”.
Therefore, he said, the Freundel Stuart administration was determined to rid the country of the “reckless and inconsiderate behaviour” of some drivers.
“We have decided that we want to bring into the Road Traffic Act the random alcohol and drug testing of any person who has been granted a driver’s licence for [an] articulated vehicle or a public service vehicle,” Lashley announced.
“There is, in the Road Traffic Act, an offence for driving under the influence . . . . We are saying that this amendment is absolutely necessary in promoting and protecting the travelling public, consisting of drivers, passengers and general road users, for the safety of persons who are using public service vehicles [and] articulated vehicles,” he said, while giving the assurance that there would be adequate training of police officers to ensure its full implementation.
Lashley said there were numerous instances of PSV operators , as well as some Transport Board drivers, “driving up and down with [alcoholic beverages] in their hand and sometimes stopping at the shop and buying two beers and coming back and driving.
“I am saying if you are serious about road safety . . . we must try to reach the ‘vision zero’ in our approach to road fatalities in this country, and accidents as a whole,” he said.
In announcing the introduction of the much talked about breathalyzer testing, the minister said that under the amended law members of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) would have the power to request a breathalyzer test from individuals suspected of driving under the influence.
He explained that in the event of a serious accident or fatality as a result of a vehicular accident, lawmen also would have the power to request a urine and blood sample.
“Where an accident involving a motor vehicle on the road or any other public place resulting in serious injury or death, a member of the Royal Barbados Police Force in uniform, subject to section 85 [of the Act], shall require any person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle involved in the accident, to provide a specimen of blood or urine for a laboratory test,” Lashley said, adding that amended legislation outlines the specifics as it relates to alcohol and drug limit and types, and the power given to lawmen to arrest a person without a warrant if that individual refuses to comply.
“Not only it gives the police officer the power, but it also protects the individual too, because of course, the police officers have a duty to provide a written statement,” he added.
Stating that stakeholders were eager to see the breathalyzer testing implemented, he said the Ministry of Transport would continue its consultation with stakeholders.
Failure to comply could result in fines and imprisonment, which Lashley said should serve as a deterrent.