This has been a week when the island paused to pay tribute to the Bermuda Police Service for the role they play in keeping communities safe. It is simply the right thing to do for a group that is often maligned, but which is an essential part of maintaining the fundamental tenets of our democracy.
Whenever something serious occurs, the cry “somebody call the police” is usually the first thing heard. These brave men and women are expected to answer the call 24/7, no matter the circumstances. Our police force may not be perfect, which is the case throughout much of the world, but most Bermudians are more than proud of the work they do — and it is good to have a week in honour of their services.
Sadly, Bermuda is in the grip of a speeding epidemic, and the amazing thing is that the way many motorists behave on our roads is a display of total disregard for basic traffic rules. Wave after wave of pleas from police and the Road Safety Council appear to be seeds falling on hard ground. There are too many people on our roads with a dangerous mindset when it comes to driving and riding, and this raises the risk factor for other motorists who do their utmost daily to comply with rules designed for the safety of all.
With three months left in this year, and 11 fatal crashes so far, our legislators need to do far more than simply express concern about loss of life. Every life lost is precious, and a deeply troubling aspect to what seems an accepted part of today’s modern lifestyle is taking to the roads under the influence of a mind-disturbing substance.
Over the years there have been concerns raised about people who choose to operate a vehicle knowing their mental abilities are affected by a foreign substance, legal or not. Even though there have been tragic results with innocent lives lost, there seems a reluctance by our lawmakers to implement sentences so severe that taking to the road under the influence would result in nothing short of losing the right to operate any vehicle ... period.
With such a law, very few people might take that risk. Obviously, there will be those who scream draconian rule. However, any action taken by legislators with a view to halting the dangerous practice by some of operating vehicles with little concern for others should be welcomed.
This is not a time for sugar-coating a situation that needs firm and direct attention that would affect all road users. Some years ago, I heard a comment that legislators were hesitant to increase penalties out of fear of being victims themselves. That may have a little flavour from the popular Yes Minister television series in Britain, but I doubt if that is the case here. However, as long as our official representatives in Parliament feel there is no need to change existing laws, people will wonder whether a little political shenanigans is involved.
The danger on our roads is certainly not a political issue. This is a problem that crosses all community lines, so making comments after an incident and expressing concern is to be appreciated. However, mere words of comfort will do little to change hardened and negative attitudes by some who travel about in an almost hostile mode, putting everyone else at risk.
Like previous governments, this relatively new administration has much on its plate. However, it would be encouraging to the entire community to hear a more forceful and determined will to take whatever action is needed to send a clear message that rules of the road must be obeyed, or violators will face very serious consequences,
There will always be accidents for reasons outside of simply driving or riding in a careless manner. But no stone should be left unturned in making our roads safer.
Governmental expressions of concern will always be welcomed, but action always speaks louder than words.