The Fight for Breathalyzer Tests in Barbados: Richard Cox’s Legacy

The year 2018 had one of the highest fatality rates in Barbados in over a decade, with roughly 30-35% of road fatalities being attributed to driving under the influence. Recently, one of the most fervent warriors for road safety and the use of breathalyzers in Barbados, Richard Cox, passed away.

Sharmane Roland-Bowen, President of the Barbados Road Safety Association, told the press that the one thing she lamented was the fact that “he did not live to see the breathalyzer test ever be enacted in Barbados.” Cox had fought tooth-and-nail for the test – a fight that Roland-Bowen will continue in order to honour Cox’s legacy and improve road safety once and for all.

Why are Breathalyzers Key to Road Safety in Barbados?

As stated in Barbados Today, among the 8,000 accidents reported every year, a majority of them are minor to severe DUI-related accidents that do not cause fatalities.

Ex-Cabinet minister Michael Lashley stated there is an acceptable drink driving culture in Barbados: “I’ve seen instances of (operators of) Public Service Vehicles driving up and down with a Guinness in their hand … stopping at the shop and running in and buying two beers and coming back.”

Breathalyzers can be seen as a key element in curtailing this culture and saving the lives of drivers and passengers on Barbadian roads. As stated by FVF Law, who specialise in drunk driving claims, drunk driving accidents are “particularly terrible because they are entirely caused by the reckless behaviour of others – and are absolutely preventable.” Indeed, one of the strongest preventive measures governments can take is the implementation of a breathalyzer system, especially during peak times of the year.

A Campaign Spearheaded by Pastor Victor Roach

The campaign for the adoption of breathalyzers was also championed by Pastor Victor Roach, who passed away in July, 2019. Speakers at his funeral reminded attendees that to honour him involved continuing to campaign for the adoption of breathalyzer testing in Barbados. Roach began his work in 2007, formulating a petition that received 40,000 signatures. Despite the demand, breathalyzers were not incorporated in the amended Road Traffic Act.

Today, 10 months after Mark Cummins of the Ministry of Transport promised that the testing apparatus would be used in a matter of weeks, widescale use of this type of testing is still being awaited. The Ministry told the press that they are currently at the implementation stage, though as far back as July 2018, The Barbados Road Safety Association called for the immediate implementation of breathalyzer testing.

The cost of breathalyzer testing is next to nothing compared to its effect on the health and safety of Barbadians. This year, two warriors who fought for this test – Richard Cox and Victor Roach – have left a legacy that Barbadians should keep alive. It is important to let the government know that road safety matters to citizens, and that the breathalyzer is a simple yet effective way to encourage more responsible behaviour on roads.

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