The recent spate of road accidents across Barbados has drawn the ire of President of the Barbados Road Safety Association (BRSA) Sharmane Roland-Bowen, who is pointing an accusing finger at authorities for not enforcing traffic laws.
This week alone the island recorded two fatal accidents, one of them including American tourist Janette Danglois who was a pedestrian in Holetown St James on Sunday, and a separate one involving motorcyclist Jamal Elon Lewis along Hastings Main Road, Christ Church on Wednesday.
Sympathizing with the families of the accident victims, Roland-Bowen told Barbados TODAY while she did not know the cause of the accidents, she believed enforcement of legislation could play a major role in minimizing the number of road deaths.
“It is the responsibility of the Government to protect its citizens. If they are not protecting themselves the Government needs to do it. The Government needs to protect us from ourselves. So it needs to be priority. Right now we have amendments and they are not being put in place,” she said.
“Where is the punishment for people? They know when they go out there and do anything they are not being punished. We have ways and means that can punish them. What happened to the demerit point system? All these are deterrents to stop people and make them behave better. Nobody wants their driver’s licence taken away. We have rules and regulations but we are not using them. They need to be up and running, not under the table. If we fail to do so the loss of lives is going to continue,” she warned.
Under the Barbados Road Traffic Amendment Act, which came into effect in late February this year, road users face serious penalties including hefty fines and imprisonment for various traffic offences including using a mobile phone while driving.
That legislation also makes provision for lawmen to request a breathalyzer test once there is justifiable cause. It is still uncertain if the requisite training and equipment were ever realized to make way for the breathalyzer testing.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, while in Opposition, had objected to some sections of the Road Traffic Amendment Act, promising to consult with the public and make necessary changes.
Roland-Bowen told Barbados TODAY the BRSA has been “more or less sitting back for the last four months going into five months since the new administration has been put in place, doing an analysis of what is happening on our roads”.
“So far nothing seems to have change,” said Roland-Bowen.
She said while she welcomed the upgrade of the roadways to make it safer for motorists and pedestrians, an even greater emphasis should be placed on putting proper laws in place and enforcing them.
The road safety advocate gave the BLP administration a failing grade for efforts in helping to curb road accidents and fatalities.
Having said this, Roland-Bowen quickly pointed out that motorists and pedestrians also had a responsibility to ensure their own safety and the safety of other road users, as well as to educate themselves on proper road usage.
“We cannot become complacent. We need to obey the laws and the rules. We need to know if you drink and drive you could get into an accident, you can hurt yourself, and you can hurt somebody else. We need to know if we speed on the roads the damage is going to be more severe.You need to know that if you drive distracted you can cause an accident.You have to also police yourself,” she said.
During the month of November, which is also road safety month, the BRSA is hoping to meet with policymakers to identify areas of weaknesses, possible solutions, as well as laws that could be better enforced.
The association will also place heavy emphasis on drunk driving as it embarks on a major education campaign.
The country has recorded a total of 27 road fatalities for the year so far.
Last year, Barbados recorded a total of 28 road deaths, making it the year with the highest number of road fatalities in the last decade.