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Cars without seatbelts, car seats given 2-week grace period

Those motorists whose cars are not equipped with seatbelts and car seats for young children will have a two-week grace period before heavy fines are levied on them for violation of the seatbelt law, which police intend to begin enforcing.

However, police warned yesterday that those motorists who have belts already in their vehicles can still face fines up to$500 if they are not used before the grace period expires on December 27.

“Over the next several weeks we will be vigilant, ensuring that motorists and passengers adhere to this law,” said Assistant Superintendent Dennis Sturrup of the Traffic Division.”As of Monday we will have police officers throughout New Providence ensuring that drivers are buckled in and passengers are secure. Further, to those with children under the age of five, it is imperative that they have child seats for each child.”

Sturrup said during the initial implementation period, the force will have additional officers throughout the island stationed at various checkpoints informing motorists of the importance of wearing seatbelts.

The seatbelt laws were enacted in March 2002 and amended in 2007. Notices appeared in newspapers on Tuesday announcing the policy change. Currently, police pay little to no attention to seatbelt use. Many Bahamians do not use seatbelts.

All drivers and passengers will be required to use seatbelts or risk fines ranging from$100 up to$500.

“This is the time when we normally see an increase in fatal accidents,”said Sergeant Garlon Rolle.”We appeal to motorists to buckle up. We will not accept any excuses. We’re going to give out flyers and once we are satisfied that we’ve done sufficient work, we will begin our enforcement,”he said.

Rolle added:”Our greatest concern with the seatbelt law is public education. What we are seeking to do is make sure that the general public is informed and has all the necessary information that we need.”

Drivers not wearing seatbelts would be fined$300; passengers not wearing seatbelts would be fined$100; and drivers would be fined$500 if children are found riding in vehicles not secured by a seatbelt or child safety seat.

Inspector Anthony Curtis said those fines apply to summary convictions or first time offenders. He said the fine could increase for habitual offenders.

According to police, there have already been over 2,685 traffic accidents and 40 traffic fatalities in New Providence in 2010. Many of the people killed or injured as a result of these accidents were not wearing seatbelts, said police.

Superintendent Carolyn Bowe, officer-in-charge of the Traffic Division, said the move is being done in an effort to cut down on the fatalities and increase road safety.

“The belt is there and why not use it?”added Sturrup.”The belt will assist us in the event of a traffic accident.”

Rolle said about 40 percent of the general public already uses seatbelts.

“This campaign is designed to try and educate the additional 60 percent so they will know the necessity of having to buckle up,”he added.

Progressive Liberal Party MP Glenys Hanna-Martin, who is the shadow minister of transport, said in a statement yesterday that while the PLP supports the enforcement of the seat belt law, it does not believe that enough forewarning was given to motorists.

“It cannot be correct nor just that the government after apparently sitting on this issue for years, would now with only a few days notice to the public seek to enforce these laws including requiring parents to acquire car seats for their infants and young children,”she said in a statement.

“Such an approach is highly insensitive to the Bahamian people in the most difficult economic times in modern memory. It seems it would have been more appropriate to at least give a decent period of notice to allow people to prepare themselves to comply with the law.”

The government gave notice of the enforcement on Tuesday.

She said the approach by the government in this matter represents”a total disconnect and disregard to the realities of ordinary people.”

“In the circumstances we recommend enforcement of the law after giving a period of reasonable notice and in the interim provide education and information to prepare motorists. The public should also be urged and warned in the meantime to wear their seatbelts, to protect their children in vehicles and to drive with extreme caution especially during the holiday season.”

She added that the public should also be made aware of the dangerous risks that exist on the road and of the high death toll and even higher injury statistics that occur each year on Bahamian streets.

She said the two-week grace period is insufficient, adding that car seats cost an average of$70 to$80.

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