Road safety plea after graphic documentary

  • Calling for change: the Piece of the Rock team. Top row from left are Dr Joseph Francioni, Anthony Santucci, Joy T Barnum, Andrew Kirkpartick, Roderick Nesbitt. Bottom from left are Alison Bardgett, Agam Jain, Stephanie Lee and Manish Thareja
  • A Piece of the Rock

The group responsible for a groundbreaking documentary highlighting the carnage on Bermuda’s roads has called for graduated licence programmes for young motorcyclists.

A Piece of the Rock has also urged the Bermuda Government to introduce random roadside breath tests as well as speed cameras to tackle the island’s “unspoken epidemic”.

The call for immediate action to address a raft of road safety issues comes after the group’s graphic and eye-opening documentary was shown to audiences for the first time last weekend.

The startling production is the culmination of nearly 18 months of intense work by a 20-strong team that included six months of shadowing EMTs as they attended road accidents.

“It is very important for Bermuda to have random sobriety testing,” producer Manish Thareja said. “Even though there are constitutional challenges they have been overcome in so many other countries.”

Co-producer Agam Jain added: “There needs to be a deterrent out there for people who drink and drive and we need to do more to educate and provide training for young drivers.

“The Bermuda youth licence is a watered-down version of the graduated licence programme used elsewhere in the world.

“We are lobbying for a strict graduated licence programme that begins at 16 and runs for two years. Only drivers that successfully complete each of the three grades get a full licence.

“If they are caught speeding, or drink-driving or have any other road infraction, they go back to the beginning again and start from fresh. It’s a zero-tolerance approach that means young drivers get proper training and a real value is put on the full licence.”

A Piece of the Rock is the brainchild of Mr Thareja and Mr Jain who embarked on the documentary in November 2015 after a colleague and friend of Mr Jain’s was seriously injured in a road accident in Bermuda.

The duo teamed up with Andrew Kirkpatrick and Nhuri Bashir from Burnt House Productions and spent about 70 nights over six months with EMTs filming how the ambulance crews responded to road accidents. The crew finished filming in October 2016 and worked around the clock with a host of other local partners to produce the documentary in time for the influx of visitors for the America’s Cup.

“We did a lot of research before starting on the documentary, speaking with local groups and experts, looking at the data and the history,” Mr Jain said.

“What became evidently clear was that there was no cohesive effort to deal with this problem and our aim was to provide a universal tool that could be used by all parties to get the same message across.

“The documentary idea evolved and the campaign to raise awareness using it became part of the same project.”

Scores attended the first showing of the documentary, including EMTs portrayed in the footage, at the Liberty Theatre last Saturday. There will be another showing this Saturday at City Hall at 2pm followed by a panel discussion with senior magistrate Juan Wolffe, Michael Fahy, the Minister of Transport, Dr Joseph Froncioni, Argus CEO Alison Hill and EMT Veronica DeSilva. Mr Kirkpatrick added: “At first, we only expected to be with the EMTs for a month, but the project evolved and that side of the filming took about six months to complete.

“Then we had all the baseline contents, the interviews and the B-rolls to collate; we all have full-time jobs, but this was certainly a project that took over our lives.”

Mr Thareja added: “The important thing to us was to provide a holistic picture and to give everyone a voice in the documentary including the EMTs who deal with this carnage on a daily basis. So many people put their heart and soul into making this documentary, but for us the production is part of the campaign that will continue with us going into middle schools and community centres and trying to get the message across.

“The accidents, the injuries and the deaths that happen on our roads affect everyone. The more people we can reach, the bigger impact we can have on the culture and the mindset.”