Bad driving in Bermuda has become so widespread that urgent action is needed to tackle it, the deputy chairman of hardware and home goods store Gorham’s said at the weekend.
Now the company has volunteered to be the main sponsor of The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change Campaign.
Kirk Kitson, deputy chairman of Gorham’s board, explained: “We are having a little change in philosophy here — Gorham’s has a fairly low profile in the community from the point of view of endorsing programmes like this that we think are very important for the island.
“We would like to become more involved in helping the community.
“Gorham’s wanted to become the lead sponsor for Drive for Change and we are excited about it.”
Mr Kitson said: “I think the campaign is really important because the driving culture on the roads has taken a turn for the worse.
“We need to change the culture. We have reached the stage where we have to address it — we cannot go on like this.
“I heard about the Drive for Change campaign when it began and I reached out to take it up with Gorham’s to see if we could support this.
Mr Kitson, backed by senior manager Rod Farrington, said the company was going through a “change in philosophy” to become more involved in issues of importance to the community.
He added: “We have a very broad spectrum of shoppers here — we are really representative of Bermuda from a cultural and ethnic point of view. We see ourselves as non-political, we simply want to help our own customers.”
Mr Farrington said the Drive for Change campaign had helped to revive his commitment to better road safety.
He added: “The one thing I think this campaign has brought to my mind is that I have been complacent. You see something for so long that I guess you just accept it and don’t think much about it but this campaign has made me start to think about it again.
“It really makes me think — particularly where I see that for every death there are 200 people injured and these people are having to live with it. How does it change their lives? It is often just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Mr Farrington said two of his sons had been involved in crashes — with one son still unable to sit for long periods because of road injuries from 20 years ago.
He added: “As a parent, it scares you to death. Those memories have all come back.”
The Drive for Change campaign is asking for three changes — roadside breath tests, speed cameras and a graduated licensing programme for new bike riders — that have reduced death and injury in other jurisdictions, including ones similar to Bermuda.
The extra road safety measures have been backed by campaign partners A Piece of the Rock, police, doctors and EMTs, anti-alcohol abuse charity Cada, the Bermuda Road Safety Council and safe riding school B//Moto.
Mr Kitson said he was aware that Anthony Santucci, the executive director of Cada, had called for roadside breath tests for many years.
He added: “Anthony has talked about getting the sobriety testing for years. I understand that it is very close to a reality — it is long overdue and he should be praised for his efforts.”
Mr Farrington said that proper training for young or inexperienced riders was vital to cutting the grim toll of death and injury on the roads.
He added: “There definitely needs to be better awareness and we need to help them become more aware of the consequences of bad driving.”
Mr Kitson said speed cameras, along with higher police visibility, would help to slow traffic down.
He added: “In a world where cameras are so far developed and advanced I don’t think the installation would be particularly difficult or too expensive.
“It could be possible for people to receive a notice in the mail for them to pay their fine — they wouldn’t have to go to court if they pay in time.
“How much would this cost and would the Government like the community to support it? We are here to get it done.”
It is commonly agreed that Bermuda faces a road safety epidemic with one in five people on the island being admitted to the Emergency Room for treatment for road-related injuries between 2009 and 2015 and 118 dying in crashes over a ten year period
Mr Kitson said the figures were unacceptable, but that the Drive for Change campaign was helping to change behaviour on the roads.
He added: “One thing I have taken away from it is I think it’s working. I drive every day at about 7.30 in the morning and I think that there is evidence of change on the roads.”