Parliamentarians debated and passed the Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2018, in the House of Assembly yesterday.
The bill will criminalize the use of cell phones and other electronic communication devices while driving, along with making it illegal to drive with open alcoholic beverages.
However, the bill states that if a cell phone is affixed to the vehicle and is enabled for hands-free use, it may be used.
National Security Minister Marvin Dames noted that traffic fatalities continue to be a major problem in The Bahamas.
He said since the new year began, there have been 15 traffic fatalities, of which 11 occurred in New Providence and two on Andros.
There have been 1,831 traffic accidents that resulted in damage, so far for the year, according to Dames.
Of that number 1,554 have occurred on New Providence, 195 on Grand Bahama and 50 on Abaco.
“Understanding that the loss of any life is one too many, my ministry and the agencies under my remit will continue to concentrate on road safety,” Dames said.
The bill will also make the failure of a driver to produce his or her name and address and the name and address of the owner of the motor vehicle or certificate of motor insurance in respect of that motor vehicle, a criminal offense.
It will make a driver’s failure to produce a driver’s license on request of a uniformed police officer an offense, which could lead to an arrest.
The bill will also require the payment of outstanding fines in respect of traffic offenses before the granting of a driver’s license or a public service driver’s license.
Minister of Transport and Local Government Renward Wells, who led off debate on the matter, noted, “We have had far too many instances where persons have agreed to produce said documents and the police never sees or hears from that individual again.
“We had instances where drivers have given the police false identities and then fled.
“While we hear the cries of those who are concerned about fundamental rights and freedoms, no one has the right to drive and not be accountable when asked who they are by a law enforcement officer.”
Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin said that while the opposition supports the provisions relative to the prohibition of the use of hand held devices and open containers of alcoholic beverages, it does not support the level of fines, which she described as too high and prohibitive.
Further amendments were made to the bill in committee stage.
The bill itself was unanimously passed last night.
The House meets next Wednesday.