Anyone that has driven in the Bahamas knows that the roads are not as safe as they should be. Thankfully, changes to the Road Traffic Act have been passed. The Road Traffic Amendment Act 2019 has been approved after being tabled last year.
Transport and Local Government Minister, Renward Wells, told the House of Assembly that the government hopes to reduce the number of traffic fatalities. Traffic accidents are now one of the most common causes of death in the country. It’s the 13th highest cause of death, and without changes it will rise.
There were 63 fatal traffic accidents last year in the Bahamas, a 29% increase from 2017. This resulted in 69 deaths, a 28% increase from the year before. These accidents weren’t limited to a single island either. 42 fatalities happened on New Providence, 11 on Grand Bahamas, and the remaining 10 on the Family Islands, including Exuma.
The new amendments will criminalize the use of cell phones while driving as well as driving with open alcoholic beverages. Drivers will also be required to produce proof of insurance and a driver’s license upon the request of a police officer. An amendment was also added to require drivers to pay outstanding traffic fines before renewing their license. Failing to adhere to these provisions would result in a fine. Originally the fine would not exceed $1,000, but after consideration, it was reduced to $500.
Texting while driving has become a major issue all around the world. As Minister Wells highlighted, “texting and driving increase the risk of an accident by about 32 percent.” The Bahamas will become the 33rd country to enact a law prohibiting using cell phones while driving. Drivers will still be able to make phone calls if using a blue tooth device.
While these new rules are certainly a step in the right direction, many locals are wondering how they will be enforced. Current seatbelt laws and speed limits are rarely followed or enforced. There are certainly more questions that need to be addressed, but having a foundation in place for enforcing them is a good first step. Hopefully, there will be fewer accidents and fatalities on the roads.