Bermuda's roads are becoming our 'killing fields'. Roadside walls are being bashed more frequently and more seriously, more vehicles are being damaged, and, worst of all, more people are being hurt, maimed and killed.

There are a number of reasons, but four stand out for me:

People are traveling too fast on our roads. People are doing more speeding on our roads. The speed limit is, or should be, designed to prevent people from harming themselves or others. The speed limit should be low enough so that even if exceeded by a few miles per hour, road users won't exceed safety margins, given the vehicle size and power; road width, curves and bends; road surface (whether dry or wet), the sight-lines; and the needs of other road users - particularly pedestrians, pedal-bikers, equestrians and young or inexperienced riders/drivers, all of whom are slower and more vulnerable.

People are traveling too recklessly on our roads. Unfortunately as speeds creep up, road chaos increases also - perhaps exponentially. There are equations in the field of fluid dynamics that explain disclose how turbulence increases as the speed of a flow increases. Thus, the margin of safety decreases as speeds rise. That, combined with the opportunity to ride daredevil un-apprehended, elevates the chaos or turbulence inevitably resulting in more accidents, each of which is likely to be more serious and more costly.

Enforcement is inadequate. As Bermuda's population increases, the number of agents of enforcement needs to increase. It could be argued that the ratio of officers to residents also needs to increase as the population grows. If, for example, we had 400 police officers when our population was at 40,000, that's one officer per 100 population.

To maintain that ratio, we would need a compliment of 600 officers for a population of 60,000. If, as I believe, the ratio needs to increase, then we might need one officer per 90 population or greater. For traffic-enforcement personnel, the ratio of enforcers will also need to keep pace with the growth in the number of vehicles on the roads - that hasn't happened.

Enforcement falls short

Enforcement is not seen to be adequate. People speed because they can. We don't use public service announcements or TV programs or 'woe-is-me' newspaper articles to prevent burglaries or theft or murders. We use laws and enforcement of those laws through detection and prosecution. AND we alert the community about that enforcement through publication of the deed and its punitive result. While officials aren't necessarily in charge of publication about traffic cases, they should not ignore or underestimate the value of public disclosure of speeding.

If public media aren't voluntarily airing speeding prosecutions and fines, then the service (or the road safety council or the government) should engage with the media to broadcast the results of traffic prosecutions - either as a public service or paid service. This will have the effect of alerting the public to the real deal speed limit, the limit at which prosecutions and punishments are actually taking place (a number very different from the stated or legal speed limit). It would also have the effect of tangibly assuring the public that the police are actually enforcing traffic laws, something very much in doubt in some minds, mine included.

There's no shortage of money for government ads about any number of other things, so that's no excuse. Money spent displaying traffic law enforcement would be well spent.

And, as traffic may be the most frequent contact people have with laws and their enforcement, lax enforcement, or the perception of same, is highly likely to negatively influence attitudes toward lawful behaviour in general.

If this theory is correct, a tightening up on enforcement of traffic laws, actual and perceived, would have the spin-off effect of improving adherence to law and order across the board. Similarly, noise levels affect human behaviour. Our lax enforcement of the laws regulating noises from the faulty or altered mufflers and loud music systems on cars and bikes (even bikes are now being fitted with overly-loud sound systems) can exacerbate a scofflaw attitude and even trigger lawlessness from the stress caused by the noise.

Let's face it, education and public service adverts may be useful, but they are ineffectual. From our own experience we know the formula: beef up the police service, especially the traffic detail; increase police visibility on the roads; AND make sure the public gets to know, weekly, about actual prosecutions and penalties for all traffic crimes.