The Island Council on Thursday, May 5 approved the new Island Ordinance containing rules for traffic and road safety on Saba.
The new ordinance, which goes in effect one month after approval by the Island Council, regulates alcohol in traffic, speed limits, seatbelts and child seats, helmets, car window tint, unnecessary noise and mobile phones. The new ordinance will be implemented gradually to give people the opportunity to get used to the new regulations. Focus in the first year will be on awareness and educating the public. Full implementation of the ordinance takes place a year after adoption.
Under the new ordinance, people are not allowed to drive a vehicle when under the influence of a substance, including alcohol, that reduces the ability to drive. The alcohol content of a driver’s breath may not exceed 352 micrograms of alcohol per liter of exhaled air, or in the case of a blood test, the alcohol content may not be higher than 0.8 milligrams of alcohol per millimeter of blood. New in the ordinance is the possibility of a breathalyzer test.
In the built-up areas, the speed limit becomes 30 km/h and 60 km/h outside the built-up areas. Drivers and passengers have to wear a seatbelt. Children under 1.30m have to be in a child seat and those older than 3 and shorter than 1.50m have to be secured with a three-point seatbelt. Drivers and passengers on a moped or motorcycle have to wear a properly fitting helmet that meets internationally accepted safety standards, and be fastened with a buckle.
The new ordinance regulates the use of tint in the front windshield and front side windows and limits this to 35 percent. To prevent unnecessary noise, motorcycles need to have the original, noise-reducing, proper muffler. Revving, causing unnecessary noise with their vehicles, will be forbidden. Holding a mobile phone while driving will no longer be allowed under the new ordinance.
A new traffic ordinance was necessary, explained Island Governor Jonathan Johnson during the handling of the proposal in a meeting of the Central Committee on Tuesday, May 3. The Road Traffic Ordinance Leeward Islands was from 1963 and had become outdated.
In the past half-century, this traffic legislation was not modified, except for a few amendments. Considering the changes in the traffic situation and technical developments, after almost half a century a comprehensive revision of the road traffic ordinance was inevitable.
After the political renewal of October 10, 2010, little had happened regarding traffic law enforcement. The Saba community strongly expressed the desire to increase road safety and combat traffic nuisance. The new ordinance intends to set clearer standards and goes hand in hand with the recent development of a broad enforcement policy.
The Saba traffic ordinance was largely based on the modernized road traffic ordinance that Bonaire adopted in 2019 and was amended to the Saba situation. The process to prepare this new ordinance included various meetings between the Island Council, the Executive Council and civil servants, as well as two town hall meetings and a meeting with the Saba Youth Council.
The new ordinance contains sections on: general provisions, instructions, orders and traffic signs, traffic behavior, technical requirements, roadworthiness certificates and marks for vehicles, driver’s licenses, penal provisions and final provisions.
Members of the Island Council expressed their support for the ordinance. They voted in favor during Thursday’s meeting. “I am so very happy that this new ordinance has been developed for a better and safer Saba,” said Councilman Hemmie van Xanten. Council lady Esmeralda Johnson said she too was glad that the ordinance has been modernized to tend to the many changes and new information since the last ordinance from 1963.
“Sometimes we forget what a big responsibility it is to drive carefully. Traffic laws are designed to protect you and other drivers on the streets. If we don’t follow them, we are not only putting ourselves in risk but also other, innocent people. By knowing the rules of the road, and practicing good driving skills, you help play a vital role in preventing a crash,” said Johnson.
Councilman Vito Charles pointed out that part of the task of the Island Council was to ensure a careful procedure when handling new legislation. “We take time to evaluate and weigh things, and we don’t just approve without substantiating.”
Charles noted the importance of having an ordinance such as this one to better protect people’s safety. He said issues such as speeding, noise, and driving under the influence of alcohol had to be regulated in the interest of the community. “The rules create a level playing field for everyone.” Communication is an important element, he said, “so people are aware and understand that it is in the interest of everyone and for the safety of all.”
According to Charles, “consequential enforcement” needs to an integral part of this new ordinance. “Otherwise, it makes no sense.” He called on people act responsibly. He mentioned wearing a helmet on a motorcycle as an example. “Not wearing a helmet may cost you your life.”
“We take our work as an Island Council seriously, and this ordinance is no exception,” said Councilman Carl Buncamper, who noted that the long process for a new traffic ordinance started some 6 years ago. “We now have a comprehensive, more modern law. Much has changed since 1963, and we have a lot more cars on the road now.”
Buncamper said the ownership belonged to the public. He too stressed on the importance of communication. “People should understand that this is not about favoritism. Everyone has to stick to the rules. It will be a learning process for the people.”
During the handling of the law proposal in a Central Committee meeting on Tuesday, May 3, the members posed a number of clarifying, technical questions which were answered by Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, Crisis and Disaster/Public Order and Safety Advisor Lune Zijnen and Legal Advisor Devi van Groningen.