Sunday, Jun 7, 2020
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An added safety measure for the streets

The government tabled the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, 2018 in the House of Assembly yesterday. It seeks to criminalize the use of cell phones and other electronic communication devices while driving, along with making it illegal to drive with open alcoholic beverages.

It specifies that “use” of an electronic device includes one or more of the following actions: holding the device in a position in which it may be used; operating one or more of the device’s functions; communicating orally by means of the device with another person or another device, or taking a prescribed action in relation to an electronic communication device.

Distracted driving is a growing problem in the country. New legislation was needed to discourage motorists from playing with their phones while on the roads.

Walk into any public place. Look at the people around you. It’s likely the majority are engaged with their smartphones.

Some are texting. Some are looking at forwards sent to them via messaging apps. Others are online, taking pictures or making videos.

We do the same things while driving. The next time you’re in traffic or at a light look around. It’s likely most people are fiddling with their phones.

When it’s time to start driving they don’t stop. They could be going 50 miles per hour with their heads down, eyes on phone, responding to a text.

According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,450 people were killed in that country in 2016 from distracted driving. In 2015, 391,000 people were injured in distracted driving accidents.

It’s unclear what percentage of our traffic fatalities and accidents result from distracted driving, but police clearly have taken note of the problem.

Officers are making stops. Driving without due care and attention has long been an offense. The new law addresses this problem specifically.

Enforcement, though, will be key if the cell phone ban is to make a difference. For example, driving while intoxicated has long been a crime yet there has been little to no enforcement when it comes to this offense. Consequently, impaired driving is a major factor in major accidents. Adding the law banning open alcohol containers will only make a difference, too, if drivers are cited for the infraction.

There is a broader need for more attention to be placed on policing traffic-related offenses in general. Running the red light is commonplace. Speeding is, too.

Here in New Providence people are regularly in excess of 80 miles per hour on the airport road, for example.

On the Family Islands the issues of speeding, impaired and distracted driving are problems as well.

The Bahamas is no longer a small place with empty roads. Our bad behaviors lead to deaths and serious injuries.

While driving, put your phones down and pay attention. You can answer texts when you arrive at your next destination. That message is not worth your life or that of the person you run in to and kill because you were not paying attention.

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