The continuing obsession of the Bermuda Road Safety Council with random roadside breath testing is a step too far on a slippery slope (The Royal Gazette, February 20, 2018 and subsequent announcements).
I admit I am a bit right-of-centre in my political philosophy on this. I have a lot of time for the idea that drink-driving contributes to injury and death. My particular anger is incurred by the instances where the drinker is not the one who gets maimed or murdered, but rather it is an innocent person. These offenders should clearly suffer the consequences.
Medical restitution, fines, punitive censure and prison are all appropriate. The medical restitution aspect is something that the Road Safety Council can advocate more actively.
I had close family that lived under authoritarianism in Eastern Europe and I lived through the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. Those things left me with a profound appreciation for the concept that individual rights cannot be compromised. Ever. Especially not just a little in the interest of a worthy end. The foundation of the intrusive powers we grant our police is that they must be used only where there is reasonable cause to suspect wrongdoing.
Using the road is not like taking an aircraft trip. No one should have to submit to random scanning, frisking or search to use the road. Random stops are every bit as wrong as the infamous “stop and frisk”.
My car is my house is my castle, and stopping me at random, removing me by force if necessary and forcing me to give a breath sample or face automatic conviction for refusing is simply wrong. No one would accept for an instant the possibility that police could then enter their home completely at random and search it for any evidence of wrongdoing. This is no different.
As things stand today, the police can stop me and demand that I submit to a breath test and can arrest me if I won’t or if I fail. At some point, however, the officer who stops me must be ready to stand before a judge and swear that he had reasonable grounds to suspect that I was doing something wrong.
Maybe I zigged instead of zagged. Perhaps he got a whiff as I drove by. Maybe my tail-light was out. Perhaps he watched me stumble at the parking lot. No matter what, I had to do something, anything, that allowed for that suspicion. This is as it should be.
This is as it must be.
The idea that the full force of the state, exercised by the police, can fall upon an individual who has not done or said anything to suggest illegal behaviour is simply unacceptable. We cannot allow these random tests to become a reality.
This is one of the secondary factors in my conviction that speed cameras are the highest priority the Road Safety Council should have. Speed is the maimer and killer. Reduce speeds and even the injuries caused by drink-driving will be curbed. Even “Dr Joe” would agree with that.
Cameras will not infringe on anyone’s rights. They will be cost-free. They will save lives immediately.
Ps. The idea that money is the barrier to doing speed cameras is false. The cameras could be privately installed and operated with the investment paid for by the fines and fees levied against offenders. No public money or manpower would be required.