The land that science forgot

. Jun 08, 2019
bolsonaro traffic science

This week, President Jair Bolsonaro submitted a bill to the House of Representatives proposing a series of changes to Brazil’s traffic laws. Among them is a move to double the number of points motorists can accrue on their licenses before facing driving bans, as well as removing the requirement to have car seats for babies and toddlers.

Widely criticized by the media and specialists on traffic safety, the bill is yet another example of the Bolsonaro government proposing laws with little to no justification in science. While the president claims the measure will benefit the population, studies show that several of his proposed changes to traffic rules may result in increased danger and death.</p> <h2>Losing your license becomes even harder</h2> <p>Currently, if drivers in Brazil accrue 20 points on their licenses within the space of 12 months, they will face a driving ban of between six months to two years. In practical terms, this corresponds to five speeding tickets—in cases where the driver exceeds the limit by up to 20 percent—or running three red lights.</p> <p>The president&#8217;s proposal is to increase this <a href="">limit</a> to 40 points, meaning a driver could incur nine speeding fines in one year without receiving a ban.</p> <p>The points system is used in many countries around the world and is deemed an &#8220;efficient dissuader&#8221; against speeding infractions. In places with the lowest number of fatalities in road accidents, such as Norway and Denmark, the points system is used and limits are much more strict. Danish laws foresee a cut-off of only three points, with each infraction resulting in a single point.</p> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="636" src="" alt="bolsonaro speech" class="wp-image-10663" srcset=" 1024w, 560w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1208w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><figcaption>Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s decisions are not based in science</figcaption></figure> <p>&#8220;It is inadmissible for a country with such a [high] number of deaths in traffic to relax a punishment system which is so important in changing drivers&#8217; behavior,&#8221; said Hannah Arcuschin Machado, Urban Design &amp; Mobility Coordinator for the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety, speaking to online newspaper <em>Nexo </em>earlier this year.</p> <p>When the points system was introduced in Brazil—along with the rest of the current traffic code—the number of deaths in traffic fell by over 20 percent in two years.</p> <p>Speaking to newspaper <em>O Globo</em>, president of the National Traffic Board Armando de Souza, posed the question of who Brazilian legislation should be protecting, &#8220;the motorist who commits infractions, or society, pedestrians, the victims in the other cars?&#8221; </p> <h2>A slap on the wrist for risking children&#8217;s lives</h2> <p>While the doubling of points affects all drivers in Brazil, it is another measure of Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s proposal which has provoked the most consternation from experts. The bill alters the punishments for drivers who do not transport children in protective car seats.</p> <p>Currently, motorists which do not use these seats for infants are fined BRL 293 for each infraction, but this new proposal would replace the fine for a written warning.</p> <p>The World Health Organization estimates that the use of car seats reduces the risk of child deaths in traffic accidents by up to 60 percent.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="683" src="" alt="deaths traffic brazil" class="wp-image-18847" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></figure> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <p>After the bill was submitted, the provision faced anger even from Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s allies. In Congress, representative Christiane Yared (from the right-wing Liberal Party) took the stand and pleaded for the article to be removed. Ms. Yared lost her son in a car accident ten years ago.</p> <p>&#8220;I don&#8217;t know how much a car seat costs, but I know how much a burial costs, a coffin, flowers,&#8221; she proclaimed.</p> <h2>More decisions not based in science</h2> <p>Arguably the headline decree issued by the Jair Bolsonaro government in its five months in office has been the measure to loosen rules on gun ownership in the country. The move removes a number of restrictions on who may own guns, and extends the right to obtain carry permits to various professions, including journalists.</p> <p>Since the Disarmament Act was enacted in 2003, firearm deaths haven&#8217;t decreased in Brazil, but yearly increases have slowed down significantly. Recent figures are worrying, however, with the annual Violence Atlas study showing that there were 47,510 firearm deaths in 2017, an increase of 6.8 percent from the previous year. The director of the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA), appointed by Jair Bolsonaro, underlined his support for looser gun controls, even when faced with such worrying data. </p> <p>The number of firearms in the hands of civilians has also increased since the decree, rising 10 percent just this year. A series of public health studies have proven that increased firearm ownership leads to more gun deaths.

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Euan Marshall

Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”

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