Former Transport Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin said she was “embarrassed” by the recent comments by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis regarding the need to implement stricter traffic penalties in light of a recent U.S. report that listed traffic fatalities in The Bahamas as “a major concern”.
“I was saddened and embarrassed that the prime minister of our country…was able to suddenly tell the Bahamian people that he is going to look at the laws or he has invited the law commission to look at laws that deal with the fines and penalties particularly killing in the course of dangerous driving,” Hanna-Martin said in a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian.
“I was embarrassed because we just had an entire debate in Parliament dealing with road safety.
“The prime minister was there. There was no mention of any of this thing. It’s so compelling and urgent, but no mention during that debate.
“When I contributed to that debate I was able point out that there was a body of work that was done by the ministry…which created a whole framework for road safety.
“And it came from a foundational understanding that road safety requires a comprehensive approach which includes fines and other things, and it dealt with specifically fines and penalties.
“The very thing the prime minister spoke about is sitting in the office of the minister of transport.
“…There is draft legislation, which they are aware of because the recent bill they brought was a carve out for that draft, which deals with cell phones.
“They carved it out and only dealt with cell phones, when they ought to have brought a more comprehensive approach to it and they didn’t do it.”
Hanna-Martin continued that it is even more saddening that it took a report from the American government to provide a warning/advisory in order for the government to “jump”.
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”.
Last week, during his calls for harsher traffic legislation, Minnis revealed that he has spoken with the law reform commissioner about strengthening the “insulting” traffic penalties that exist in The Bahamas.
“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,” the prime minister told reporters.
“There must be vehicular manslaughter.”
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.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications