The bad driving epidemic

The most basic tenet of journalism is to tell the truth.

And the truth is that The Bahamas has become a country of bad drivers.

The national discourse often speaks to national leadership, but we very rarely want to turn the lens inward.

There has been an outcry over violent crime in recent weeks, and legitimately so.

However, when we look at how frequently we have adopted a culture of breaking simple laws, like littering and our almost wholesale ignorance of the Road Traffic Act, we should question whether that has anything to do with our larger problem.

Amendments to the Road Traffic Act were passed in 2018.

They established a law to turn left on a red light if there is no oncoming traffic.

This, however, was taken by many to mean there should be no stopping at a red light if one wishes to turn left.

We now have adopted into our culture, the blowing of horns at those on the light who have no intention of turning left.

As for turn signals, many drivers seem not to understand that they’re included with the vehicle.

And for many, running red lights, as incredibly dangerous as that is, has become common practice.

Drivers often rush out of corners, reverse onto main roads, speed well above the legal limit and fail to recognize the right of way.

Navigating roundabouts seems to be particularly challenging for many.

There is also, of course, the terrible driving of many professional drivers.

Taxi drivers appear to believe they have a special right of way on the streets, often speeding or slowing incredibly to point something out to passengers.

Those driving large commercial trucks and vehicles with 18 wheels are not much better.

Then, there are those who drive raging and rudely, cutting people off as they pull out of corners, exercising no sense of courtesy to other drivers, and driving often in the middle of the road on two-lane thoroughfares.

The 2018 amendments included a provision to ban open containers of alcoholic beverages in vehicles.

Anyone who goes outside would know that law is being broken on a regular basis.

People drive while clearly under the influence of alcohol, while others drive while smoking marijuana leaving others to the mercy of the drunk and the drugged behind the wheel.

The law was also changed to ban the use of cell phones unless they’re connected to the vehicle.

Not only do many drivers still speak on their phones while driving, but there are those who text as they drive, knowing how irresponsible such behavior is.

A law was passed last year to make it a criminal offense if a driver kills a child while driving because the child was not secured with a seatbelt as a passenger.

This law buttressed seatbelt laws passed a decade ago.

There is a mountain of research and statistical data that show the protection seatbelts offer, yet we routinely see children unsecured in vehicles.

Often you will see people holding babies.

Economic hardship notwithstanding, protecting children is paramount and carries with it certain costs.

So bad is our driving, that the US government routinely warns its citizens travelling here about it.

“Visitors (particularly pedestrians, cyclists, and runners) should exercise extreme caution,” the US Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) said in its 2020 Crime and Safety Report.

“While it is against the law, drinking and driving is common; police infrequently enforce the ban, resulting in numerous traffic accidents and fatalities, including some involving tourists on foot or on motor scooters. Traffic accidents pose a safety hazard in some parts of The Bahamas, primarily due to intolerant drivers speeding and driving recklessly.

“Motorcyclists frequently swerve through slow traffic and drive between lanes of moving vehicles. Poorly maintained or excessively loaded vehicles also use the roadways. Passengers regularly ride in the back of trucks without any safety restraints; and although required by law, motorcyclists often do not wear helmets.”

They know us all too well.

And though Bahamians should abide by traffic laws, because of the fact they are laws, there is no point in having them if the police do not enforce them.

Yes, the police have no shortage of work with the scourge of violent crime and COVID-19 enforcement, but the streets of New Providence have become dangerous to drive on, with police usually only seen when their sirens are engaged, or if an accident occurs.

We have to get a handle on this bad driving epidemic.

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