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Called to court

HEATHER-LYNN EVANSON, [email protected]

Called to court

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Troy Eon Goddard made history for all the wrong reasons Friday.

Twenty-four hours after the Royal Barbados Police Force stressed it would be enforcing the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act and Regulations banning the use of hand-held cellphones while driving, Goddard became the first man to be hauled before the court, charged with committing the driving offence.

And Acting Inspector Roland Cobbler said while he expected some initial resistance, lawmen will be enforcing the law, given that distracted driving had become a problem.

Goddard, 39, of Ashbury, St George, who appeared in the Bridgetown Traffic Court yesterday, is now $1 000 poorer and still has another $400 to pay by Tuesday for a second offence.

Goddard pleaded guilty that while being a driver of a van on Constitution Road, yesterday, he operated the vehicle at the same time while using a cellphone. He also admitted not giving his name and address to a lawman.

The fine for driving and talking on his cellphone was half of the maximum fine, as the amended Road Traffic Act prescribes a maximum of $2 000, imprisonment up to 18 months, or both, for anyone who has a conversation with a cellphone to the ear, or on a speaker, or who uses an earpiece or headset for the conversation. However, conversations using cellphones which were connected to Bluetooth equipment in the vehicle were permissible.

Speaking in the wake of the charge, Cobbler, stressed that only hands-free operations of cellphones were allowed and even turning on and off a phone while the vehicle was moving was now illegal. In addition, the act forbids the use of a wide range of equipment, including pagers, walkie-talkies and laptops while driving.

“The whole idea of distracted driving has become a growing concern worldwide and since the fact that cellphone use has been linked to a number of motor vehicle accidents . . . it is one of those laws which is in place now and will be enforced by the law enforcement officers.

“There is a possibility of resistance. There will be some resistance but, over time, persons will recognise the necessity of having such laws in place,” he said.

Prosecutor Sergeant Vernon Waithe said Constable Roland Bishop was patrolling when he saw Goddard driving and holding his cellphone to his left ear. The lawman approached Goddard after he had made a right turn on to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital pasture and told him of his observations, and that he was being reported. When he requested Goddard’s name and address, he refused to say.

After a second request, Goddard was told he was being arrested, to which he replied: “Arrest me, then.”

“You are very bold . . . . So early in the morning and what was it you told police? ‘Arrest me, then’?” Magistrate Graveney Bannister asked the first-time offender.

Magistrate Bannister said he took into consideration that Goddard had no previous convictions, but refusing to give his name only made things worse.

“How long were you in custody?” the magistrate asked.

“From this [Friday] morning,” Goddard replied.

Goddard was fined $1 000 on the spot or 100 days in prison. He paid it. 

The $400 must be paid by Tuesday for failing to give his name, or he would spend 40 days in prison. (HLE)