The hurricane season officially started on June 1 and, as if to signal the change, the rains have blessed us this month. Though these showers have in no way alleviated the low water reservoirs around the island, they have at least resulted in much greener foliage than in earlier months. Still, we have to be prepared for any changes in weather patterns and any named storms that form in the latter portion of the season.
To that end, we have some critical questions: does Barbados need stricter laws when it comes to protecting the safety of the populace during natural disasters? Along with the declaration of an island-wide shutdown, do we need to enact a law to force citizens to take it seriously? Or maybe we need only to enforce more strictly, the laws already in place.
This concern emanates from the seemingly reckless and negligent behaviour displayed by some of the nation’s citizens during previous storms. For example, a few years ago during Tropical Storm Matthew, one individual took it upon himself to “drift” in a truck around the empty car park of a popular establishment, despite the warning of emergency services to stay indoors during the heavy winds and rain. The lawlessness did not stop there. Other drivers used the rainy weather and reduction of traffic on the roads to perform stunts around the Warrens Highway, causing immense danger not only to themselves but the other motorists on the road during this foolhardy demonstration. Surely there needs to be some sort of sanction for these displays of careless and foolish driving. Suppose they had lost control of the vehicles and crashed? Supposed the
recklessness had happened during a time that emergency services could not come out to their rescue?
As such, we must examine what is already on the law books to deter these rash individuals, because their actions are a direct violation of the order of the emergency services to Barbadians to remain safely inside of their homes until the all clear is given.
The Offences Against the Person Act CAP 141, Section 19 states that “any person who unlawfully and maliciously or recklessly engages in conduct which places, or may place, another person in danger of death or serious bodily harm is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life”. Furthermore, Section 24 notes that any person, having the charge of any carriage or vehicle who, by wanton or furious driving or racing or other wilful misconduct or by wilful neglect,
does or causes to be done any bodily harm to any person whatsoever, is guilty of an offence which is triable on indictment or summarily”.
We have seen enough viral videos on social media to realise that unlawful road behaviour is not exclusive to occasions when the country is shut down. Indeed, some public service vehicle and private vehicle drivers make a case, by their recklessness, for the law to be prosecuted to its highest extent. However, since we are in the season, we think it prudent that as public service announcements remind people of the actions they should take before, during and after a storm, that those PSAs also remind of the need to stay off the roads until the all clear is given. If they will not do it, then the law needs to step up and be enforced.