In light of the prime minister’s call for a correction of “insulting” traffic penalties, Transport Minister Renward Wells said yesterday government will soon table “ harsher” penalties in the House of Assembly.
“The legislation will bring harsher penalties and we might decide that it should be even harsher than the penalties that currently exist,” Wells told The Nassau Guardian.
He continued, “…That’s why I said…it’s out for consultation and based on the feedback that we get we’ll be able to move forward in the direction that the government deems fit and necessary.”
The Office of the Attorney General has already looked at the amendments, Wells said.
Asked if the legislation will be tabled before the summer, he said, “I won’t put a definitive timeline on it, but we will do it sooner rather than later.
“…We’re going to look at the bill. We’re going to get the input of all stakeholders and then we’re going to look at whether there needs to be changes and implement whatever changes are necessary and then move forward in a very concerted manner.”
The renewed focus on traffic penalties surfaced after a spate of traffic fatalities in the capital as well as a U.S. crime and safety report about The Bahamas.
The report, compiled by the United States’ Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), warned U.S. citizens that traffic injuries in The Bahamas are a major safety concern for tourists.
It noted that traffic accidents in The Bahamas are often due to drivers who are “intolerant, reckless and sometimes antagonistic”.
“The embassy continues to see a significant number of serious injuries from accidents in which the operator suffered from alcohol/drug impairment, lack of experience or inattention operator and/or other motorists,” the report noted.
In April, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis was asked about the U.S. report.
He said, “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,” Minnis said.
“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.”
That same month, head of the Royal Bahamas Police Force Traffic Division Chief Superintendent Craig Stubbs said that “well over” 10,000 traffic infractions had been forwarded to the courts so far this year.
Recently, two men were each fined $10,000, in separate cases, for killing in the course of driving. If the men fail to pay they would spend one year in prison.
The Progressive Liberal Party has also called for tougher penalties for those who violate the traffic laws.
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.
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice
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