Drive For Change

Hundreds stopped by roadside sobriety tests

  • Keeping roads safe: police stop a rider at a roadside sobriety checkpoint at Crow Lane in Paget on Saturday night  (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Saturday night roadside sobriety checkpoints in operation. Pictured is Royal Gazette senior news reporter Fiona McWhirter (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Saturday night roadside sobriety checkpoints in operation, Chief Inspector Robert Cardwell (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Saturday night roadside sobriety checkpoints in operation, South Road (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Several hundred drivers were stopped over the weekend after police set up their first roadside breath test checkpoints.

Officers stopped and spoke to about 200 road users between Saturday night and the early hours of yesterday alone.

Hundreds more were tested on Friday night.

Seven people were asked to use the handheld breathalyser on Saturday night into Sunday morning after an initial assessment suggested they had been drinking.

Three road users — a 24-year-old and two people aged 27 — were found to be over the limit.

Police assessed drivers for impairment at the checkpoints in Paget and Devonshire and anyone thought to have been drinking was asked to provide a breath sample.

Fifteen people were asked to take breath tests and five were arrested for drink driving over Friday night and Saturday morning.

By the early hours of yesterday, eight people had been arrested for failing roadside tests after they recorded readings above the legal limit of 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

The police praised drivers for their patience while the checks took place.

But officers said not everyone was prepared to co-operate and they had to chase two motorbikes at “high speed” after riders failed to stop.

Chief Inspector Robert Cardwell, head of the roads policing unit, said the number of drink-driving arrests was lower than expected and suggested that it could be a sign that road users had heeded the don’t drink and drive message.

Mr Cardwell told The Royal Gazette: “We are really pleased with the first two nights of roadside sobriety checks.

“We are grateful for the patience exercised by members of the public when they came upon our checkpoints.

“Some thanked us and we worked hard to keep delays in traffic movement to a minimum.”

Mr Cardwell said: “We did anticipate the number of arrests would be higher given that it has been our assessment that incidents of impaired driving are high and frequent.”

But he added: “Perhaps it is the case that roadside sobriety checks have already taken hold and people are giving driving after alcohol consumption a second thought — if this is the case, it should continue.”

He said: “It continues to be our message that we are not here to catch anyone impaired driving.

“It is our hope that these operations will act to change the Bermuda drink-driving culture and act as a huge deterrent to taking chances with life.”

The Road Traffic (Roadside Sobriety Checkpoints) Amendment Act 2018 was given Royal assent on July 23.

Anyone whose sample showed alcohol under the legal maximum was allowed to return to their vehicle and continue on their journey.

The checkpoints, which were due to continue last night, changed location throughout the operations and Mr Cardwell said some motorists attempted to avoid them.

He said: “It was unfortunate that we were forced to engage in two high-speed pursuits to chase riders who failed to stop at our checkpoints.

“There are so many dangers associated to pursuits for the person being chased, other motorists and our own staff.

“Our BPS motorcyclists are highly trained and very competent riders and are up to the task of undertaking pursuits, but we hope to never have to do this.”

He added: “Both riders in this weekend’s pursuits crashed and both were arrested. One for taking a motorcycle without the owner’s consent — theft — and the other for impaired driving.”