The man who piloted the amended Road Traffic Act in 2017, which gives police officers the authority to request a breath sample from drivers suspected to be under the influence, says he is happy that the Mia Mottley-led administration is now ready to enforce this law.
Former Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley, Q.C. believes both the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration and the current Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Government, dragged their feet in seeing the law through to implementation. However, in a recent interview with Barbados TODAY, the former Member of Parliament contended that it was better late than never.
“When we looked at the breathalyser test, we were always looking at international standards and the fact that Barbados had signed on to the conventions on road safety. With that in mind there was always one glaring omission. At the time we were making sure that we had buy-in from all of the stakeholders, but I believe that breathalyser testing is something that is badly needed and long overdue, so I am glad that it has been finally implemented,” said Lashley.
He argued, as he did three years ago from the floor of Parliament, that the measure would go a long way in reducing the country’s road fatality statistics, which have reached double figures in the last three years.
“I remember bringing the Road Traffic Act amendments in Parliament and those were accepted by both Houses. We also had a series of meetings to determine the best device. So, putting aside politics I am really happy that it is finally here. We’ve had quite a number of road fatalities in recent times and we can see the effects late at night and sometimes early in the morning when persons are coming from parties,” he explained.
However, the former transport minister, who has now returned to his private practice as an attorney-at-law, told Barbados TODAY that Barbadians can expect some teething problems when the breathalyser testing is fully rolled out. He explained that it was likely to be some trial and error in the process, as this was uncharted territory for the law courts.
“I believe initially they are going to be some problems because it is a new area that we are going into when it comes to road safety. So obviously police officers have to be trained and in terms of giving the evidence. I expect in the first couple of months there would be some kinks but as long as the prosecutors and police are trained, the problems should all be worked out. We as the defense lawyers also have a job to do ensuring that the proper procedure is adhered to,” he said, noting that Barbados can pull from the experience of other countries which have implemented breathalyser testing.
Last November, Minister of Transport and Works Dr William Duguid put would-be drunk drivers on notice that breathalyser testing was coming in January. His announcement came well over a year after government promised the apparatus would be implemented within “a matter of weeks”.
“My ministry is at an advanced stage with respect to the use of breathalyser testing of drivers of vehicles. The introduction of such testing will certainly go a long way in ensuring the safety of the travelling public and we anticipate that this will be instituted in January of 2020,” he said at the time.
Motorists found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol face fines of $5,000 or two years in prison. Police officers will be carrying out the tests with a handheld Portable Breath Test (PBT) which provides a measurement of a driver’s deep lung alcohol concentration or breath alcohol and the current limit is 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 milliliters of breath. [email protected]