Even as the recently enforced legislation banning the use of mobile phones while driving brought fresh attention to road traffic laws, police say too many people continue to run afoul of those laws.
As an example, Assistant Superintendent Roland Stanford, who has responsibility for the traffic department of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF), pointed to the number of people who violate the seat belt law, which has been in force since 2001.
“I am surprised that people are still being reported for that offence. Some mornings I check the report and I see 20 or 25. I am surprised that people are still being reported for this offence,” Stanford told journalists at news conference this morning.
More than 20,000 road traffic offences were reported last year alone, with major infringements by private vehicle operators including driving without due care and attention, speeding, unauthorized lighting and parking, non-payment of road taxes and driving without third party insurance coverage.
The major offences by privately owned public service vehicle (PSV) operators included driving without due care and attention, not wearing uniforms, playing of music and speeding.
Transport Board drivers were “scarcely” seen breaking the traffic rules, the senior police officer said.
Stanford could not immediately say how much was paid into Government’s coffers from fines due to road traffic offences in any given year, but said while Barbadians seemed to be complying with the newly enforced ban on cell phone use while driving, motorists caught breaking road traffic laws would not be spared.
“I think we should give it a little bit more time, but our observation so far is that once upon a time when you drive along you would commonly see people on the cell phones while driving, but you are hardly seeing that now,” the traffic boss said.
“If they relapse our enforcement will not lapse. If people relapse they will then feel the pressure of our enforcement efforts,” Stanford warned, adding that he was also “very concerned about speeding because it contributes to most of the road fatalities and serious accidents”.
The RBPF has received reports of 1,465 accidents so far this year, most of which were fender benders. There were five road fatalities up to March 6.
The law enforcement officer said another major contributor to the 7,841 accidents reported last year was driving while distracted.
Addressing the ban on cell phone use while driving, Stanford said there was still too much confusion about the measure, even as he explained that motorists could still be charged for using their mobile phones even if they pull aside and remain sitting in their vehicles.
He said the law was clear that motorists were only allowed to use the mobile phone if they exit the vehicle, or if they use a hands-free wireless device within the vehicle.
“There have been a lot of queries about pulling off to the side of the road and using your cellphone. The law is pretty strict about that also because it says you are still actually driving as long as you are in control of the vehicle and the levers that cause movement of that vehicle. So the only way you are going to use your cell phone is if you are going to actually get out of the vehicle. But if you stay behind the wheel, technically speaking you are still driving,” Stanford said.
He also reminded motorcyclists and bicyclists to wear their helmets, while warning that the RBPF would continue to carry out “special operations” to catch people who do stunts on the island’s roadways.
The senior cop said there had been no reports of bribery against traffic enforcement officers to the department.