|Chairman of the Barbados Road Safety Council, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, receiving a portfolio of road safety mementos from Acting Chief Planning Officer in the Ministry of Transport and Works, Jonlyn Harewood, at the launch.
The frequency of motorists networking on Facebook and other social media sites and texting while driving, has not gone unnoticed by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
To stamp out these bad practices, the Prime Minister announced that changes to the Road Traffic Amendment Act would soon be debated in the House of Assembly, to deal with issues such as breathalyser testing, procedures relating to writing off vehicles and frequent inspection of vehicles.
Speaking during the launch of the Barbados Road Safety Council on Monday, Mr. Stuart said the use of cell phones while driving had led to increased morbidity and mortality due to road crashes.
He added that this practice, which was described by the World Health Organization as distracted driving, was "one of the most disturbing features locally, regionally and internationally, particularly since this little device has become a very critical factor in the business and commercial sectors".
The Prime Minister was also horrified by drivers of large vehicles that transported voluminous and heavy loads talking and texting on cellular phones while navigating their vehicles at top speed.
"We must put an end to these bad practices.?? Being mindful of the increasing use of the cellphone and its impact on the timely business activity, I am happy that it is being addressed within the framework of the amendments to the Road Traffic Act," Mr. Stuart affirmed.
Citing accident statistics to reinforce the point, the Prime Minister said that from 1980 to 2009, the number of accidents increased from 4 200 in 1980, to 8 317 in 2009.
Mr. Stuart observed: "What statistics do not ever adequately reflect are the economic and social costs to the country, apart from those to the individual … Barbados expends millions of dollars every year on the importation of car parts as a consequence of vehicular accidents.?? So too does the Ministry of Health in treating the victims of these crashes."
Underscoring the funeral expenses and legal fees incurred by the victim or their families as a result of an accident with light, serious or fatal injuries, Mr. Stuart said in most instances, the pain and suffering caused could be avoided.
"The sad thing about accidents is that many of them can be avoided.?? When our loved ones are abruptly snatched from us, we are minded to chide ourselves for not warning the victim to always remember to wear his or her seat belt; not to drive under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances; not to text while driving; always obey the traffic signs and not ??to speed.?? Unfortunately, this always comes too late," he lamented.
The 25-member Barbados Road Safety Council, was established last July to address the various challenges arising from the number of road accidents on the island’s roads.