The newly introduced ban on the use of mobile phones while driving is getting strong support from Barbadian drivers.
As of today, the recently approved Road Traffic Amendment Act prohibits any person from driving a vehicle while at the same time holding, manipulating, talking on, or using, a cellular phone.
Anyone found guilty of violating this provision of the law faces a $2,000 fine, 18 months in jail or both.
When Barbados TODAY visited the Warrens, St Michael area hardly any motorists were observed using their cell phones while driving.
However, a number of those who were parked at the popular Pricemart wholesale store threw their support behind the legislation.
“I am quite happy about it mainly because people get distracted when they are on the roads. When you really think about it, when you are trying to multitask something is going to drop. I am very much for it. I think it will help with small minor accidents and stuff,” Lorna Wilson said.
Similar sentiments were shared by Emerald Holder, who said the ban would not affect him because he was not in the habit of using the phone while driving.
In addition, he said, it was necessary to prohibit cell phone use by drivers because these devices contributed to vehicular accidents.
“I don’t use my phone while driving so it’s really not an issue for me,” Holder told Barbados TODAY.
“But I think the law is long in coming. It will now pave the way for police to charge people who drive and text. Most of the accidents in Barbados are caused like that, especially at the roundabouts. I think there is a need for it and I am happy with it,” he argued.
An 84-year-old motorist, who identified himself as Bert, said driving while on the phone was not for people of his age group.
Bert said he was no fool, and he used his mobile phone for no other reason but to stay in touch with his wife.
“All phone does do for me is let my madam know where I am. When I get to my destination I will let her know I am there and when I am coming back I do the same. I don’t use my phone. I am 84 years old so I leave that for the [youngsters],” he said.
“My phone can’t use while driving, I like to be real. This is how I see it. Only a fool should drive and use the phone.”
Founder of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society Kemar Saffrey did not show the same level of excitement, although he made it clear motorists had an obligation to obey the law.
“For me it’s a law that pass and we all should abide by it,” Saffrey told Barbados TODAY. “Statistics and information would have been done and this decision was made so I just hope that we all abide by the rules. It is not totally bad because you can still use . . . the hands-free mode, but basically if it is a law that has passed we should just abide by it,” he added.
In introducing the measure in Parliament last November, Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley had said the amended legislation would address the problem of distracted drivers, particularly those using cellular phones, and would also prevent those teaching would-be drivers from using cell phones while they were instructing.
The Act, which includes hefty fines and imprisonment for road violations, including drink driving, was welcomed by the Barbados Road Safety Association (BRSA), which had long campaigned for strong measures to improve road safety.
Following its introduction BRSA President Sharmane Roland-Bowen had told Barbados TODAY the country was finally on the right path, but a comprehensive driver education programme was needed.
“Everyone needs to be aware of their responsibilities and comply with the laws, because it is for their own safety. Every country that has managed to reduce the number of road deaths has introduced education programmes,” Roland-Bowen had said.
“An educational component will help drivers develop a greater awareness of the dangers associated with breaking the laws. The judicial system, insurance companies and the Licensing Authority all must take the issue of road safety more seriously, and the new traffic laws must be enforced once they come on stream,” she added at the time.