President of the Barbados Road Safety Association, Sharmane Roland-Bowen is tired of empty promises from successive governments about the implementation of breathalyzer testing to crack down on drunk drivers.
After more than two dozen people lost their lives in road fatalities last year, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Mark Cummins in November promised that the testing apparatus would be functional in a matter of weeks.
Well over 15 weeks have passed since that promise was made and no visible progress has been made.
In response to a question about the promised implementation, Minister of Transport and Works, Dr William Duguid on Monday morning while at the national consultation on land transport would only say, “the last requirement is the implementation.”
Last week Duguid told Barbados TODAY regarding the promised breathalyzers, “there are some security measures that have to be put in place that are not in place yet.”
Reliable sources confirmed that Government is at an “advanced stage” with the implementation of the testing and that the machines have arrived in the island and are with the ministry.
Meanwhile, four men including a 19-year-old have lost their lives on the road this year. While there is absolutely no known link between alcohol use and those four tragedies, outspoken road safety advocate, Charmaine Roland-Bowen believes breathalyzer testing represents an important, but neglected tool in reducing road fatalities.
“It has taken decades and all we have is promises. Nothing has been done. Even with the legislation we are still here waiting and all the while, lives are being lost,” she said.
“I personally thought that when this administration came into power that things would have changed and things would have sped up.
“This is not rocket science, this is something that has been going on for decades in other countries and has proven to save lives and still we don’t value the lives of our people enough to see the necessity of this small instrument to help deter persons who are caught driving under the influence of alcohol.
“Even in our sister countries within CARICOM, they have taken steps to combat drunk driving. We have the legislation that is there and we are tired of broken promises. We need measures that we can be sure if they are put in place, we will see the reduction of collisions on our roads,” she said.
Roland Bowen also referenced the United Nation’s 2011-2020 decade of action for Road Safety, to which Barbados is a signatory.
She argued that when the decade swiftly came to an end Barbados had failed to implement one of the major recommendations, which is that all countries put measures in place to combat drunk driving.
According to Roland Bowen her association has continued to receive reports of drivers who appeared to be drunk, but without the Breathalyzer testing apparatus such claims could not be proven.
During Monday’s consultation, Duguid pledged his commitment to the fight road deaths.
“Deaths by vehicle crashes are avoidable. However each year Barbados continues to record fatalities by crashes…road safety programmes must continue to feature significantly within the operations of the ministry.
He also warned that those who continue to “run recklessly on our roads,” ran the risk of having their permits revoked.