During his calls for harsher traffic legislation, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday revealed that he has spoken with the law reform commissioner about strengthening the “insulting” traffic penalties that exist in The Bahamas.
His comments come in light of a recent U.S. report which listed traffic fatalities in The Bahamas as “a major concern”.
Speaking about the report, Minnis said, “It’s coincidental because just on Tuesday I expressed some similar concern to my Cabinet colleagues that we must look at the traffic legislation because our fines must be much, much more harsh than what we’re seeing.
“There must be vehicular manslaughter.
“We must look at that because it’s insulting for individuals who have knocked or hit down a particular individual and they subsequently die. It’s just basically a slap on the wrist. I think that could have serious repercussions in the international community with time, so I think the fines need to be a lot more harsh.
“I’ve spoken to the law reform commissioner and asked them to look at our traffic fines, violations, etc. so that we can have proper legislation to deal with modern day society.”
In its 2019 Crime and Safety Report, the United States’ Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) said traffic accidents in The Bahamas are often due to drivers who are intolerant, reckless and sometimes “antagonistic”.
“Traffic accidents pose a safety hazard in some parts of The Bahamas, primarily due to intolerant drivers speeding and driving recklessly,” the report said.
It added: “Traffic fatalities are a major concern, with a 29 percent overall increase in traffic-related deaths from 2017.”
On Tuesday, Chief Superintendent Craig Stubbs, head of the Royal Bahamas Police Force Traffic Division, said that well over 10,000 traffic infractions had been forwarded to the courts so far this year.
He pledged police would step up enforcement of traffic laws and urged Bahamians to drive more conscientiously.
According to statistics released by the commissioner of police in January, there were 63 traffic accidents recorded in The Bahamas in 2018 that resulted in 69 deaths.
Of those deaths, 31 were pedestrians, 20 were drivers, 12 were passengers, three were motorcyclists and three were bicyclists.
The government recently passed amendments to the Road Traffic Act in the House of Assembly that 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.
Those amendments have yet to be brought into force.
There have been 22 traffic fatalities for the year so far.
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice