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(THE TCI SUN) – The tourism industry and small restaurants and bars in the Turks and Caicos Islands will be hurt by the stiff penalties associated with the recently-introduced breathalyzer test, according to Hon. Washington Misick, Leader of the Opposition Progressive National Party (PNP).
Misick’s views, which were expressed in the House of Assembly during his recent reply to the 2018-19 budget, are in line with several officials in the tourism industry, members of the public, attorneys and even certain members of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force, who have called for the breathalyzer test system to be urgently reviewed.
Critics have stated that the penalties resulting from being over the limit after the breathalyzer tests are too harsh and will criminalize many persons in this small society and tourism-based economy.
Misick said all stakeholders should come together and have a serious look at the problem and, among other things, decide what the acceptable alcohol/blood ratio level should be, and have some kind of comparative review of what happens in other jurisdictions.
“Because the very tourism that we talk so much about could be impacted, because once we start arresting tourists for drunk driving and start having phone calls from their Congressmen…,” Hon. Misick said before he was interrupted by Hon. Doug Parnell and Speaker Hon. Dwayne Taylor about the relevance of his remarks to Premier Hon. Sharlene Robinson’s budget address.
The PNP leader and former Chief Minister, added: “Drunk driving have an impact on the potential of reducing the sales to restaurants and bars because people are afraid to drink beyond a certain level of alcohol, or because the tourists are afraid of being arrested and this has a direct impact on the economy. We’re speaking about the most important which is tourism and I don’t see how that could be irrelevant.”
Misick said while he shares the concerns of people dying on the highways of our islands, he thinks unless the Premier (Hon. Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson) should bring the evidence to support the correlation between accidents and drunk driving.
He noted that TCI is one of the most tourism-dependent economies in the world and will remain so for the foreseeable future, therefore “ill-advised actions today will impact the long term growth and sustainability of this industry”.
He added: “I know the legislation has been on the books for a long time and I understand that the qualification level of the alcohol in the blood is extremely low, and lower than what is in most other jurisdictions.”
Misick continued: “The information that I have, and I have no way of validating that information, and I want to make that clear because I don’t want to be accused of lying, but I am told that most traffic accidents that happen in this country happen in intersections and roundabouts because people do not know and were not properly taught how to drive or how to use the roundabouts and use intersections.”
He continued: “To wake up one morning and decide that the reason for the accidents is because of too much drinking a driving, without telling the public where they have the proof that this is the case, Madame Premier, I think in itself irresponsible. So what is likely to happen, and I understand that people are already starting to see it, in the external restaurants and bars in Providenciales. Maybe people will take their six-packs into their rooms or they will have a drink at their hotel bar, but who is likely to get hurt? The person who is likely to get hurt are the same small businesses that you (Premier) said in this document you want to empower.”
Misick emphasized the importance of making sure that the public is safe and to derive information and generate information that could be used on which decisions can be made.
Persons who are found guilty of causing death by careless driving when under influence of drink or drugs will face a maximum fine of $5,000 or serve a term of imprisonment of 12 months or both, the new driving under the influence laws came into effect on Sunday July 1st, 2018.
Sections 26 to 34 of the laws of the Turks and Caicos Islands expounds on the issue of driving when under the influence. Individuals who are found in contradiction to this piece of legislation will be asked to do a breathalyzer test by an officer in uniform.
Such persons who fail this test will be subject to being arrested and charge for the offences of driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle whilst under the influence of drink or drugs.
A police officer may arrest without a warrant, if the proportion of alcohol in that person’s breath exceeds the prescribed limit; or if he fails to provide a specimen of breath for a breath test by a police officer.
A police officer may require a person to provide a specimen of breath, in instances where he has reasonable cause to suspect, that the driver is involved in an accident resulting in injury to another person.
In addition, the legal level of alcohol content is 35 micrograms of alcohol and 100 milliliter of breath. These new laws do not apply to locals only it applies to tourist as well.