The mini-boom of shock and grief at the sudden and tragic passing of Carlene Stuart on Wednesday morning along Blowers Road in St James, as she worked, diligently focused on the task before her, will all be etched on our minds for a little while yet. Even longer if the Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley does not keep his word.
Mr Lashley will be looking at putting in place more stringent safety measures for those who legitimately work on the roadways of Barbados. He hopes that by doing so he will minimize the recurrence of such a calamity and its attendant tribulation and trauma, as we all experienced last week.
Of course, such revisionary thought will hardly have been burdening Mr Lashley’s conscience prior to Wednesday’s misfortune and distress, if for no other reason than we have been hurrying along unconcernedly and rushing by quite detachedly –– without incident for some time now –– those people who have been fixing our highways, or tidying them. Carlene Stuart was one such worker, and deserved no such demise as she suffered, which immediate family, friends and work colleagues were left to bemoan and bewail.
A driver reportedly in haste –– and impatient ––would contribute to the collision with another and the running down of poor Ms Stuart.
Minister Lashley has since called on drivers to be careful in their use of all our roads and to show respect to and for those workers of both Public Service and private enterprise carrying out their duties on the our highways. It ought to be unthinkable; but it is not far-fetched that some of us –– too many, regrettably –– believe that the team repairing the road, or the crew weeding its verges are of lesser ilk.
Still, for all our alleged indifference and rashness, we are fortunate to have no abundance of these tragedies –– though any such disaster in any single year is one too many. Mr Lashley has given no timeline on the implementation of these improved road safety measures to come; and we are left to wait with bated breath.
In the meantime, we might want to rewire our own mindset and behaviourism, ever so mindful that our highway crews have every right to work in peace and safety wherever they be. After all, they do us good. Highway workers are there to ensure our roads are properly maintained and improved, and their edges debushed and weeded for our comfort and very own safety itself.
We must be all made cognizant of the fact that the roadway may be a place of work, and the people there deserve as much respect as we would want at our work stations off the road. Clearly, on busy roads, day or night, in rain or sunshine, weathers, these street teams risk their lives improving our road system, keeping it open, clear and clean.
Loss of life, or serious injury, is a very real threat when motorists speed through roadworks trying to save a few minutes, or drive nonchalantly –– without a single care –– as they text their friends on their smartphones. Our road teams deserve a security of tenure that is bolstered by more than putting up a couple of signs and hoping for the best.
Needless to say, it becomes quite trying for crews to focus on their work when they hear about their colleagues or peers dying on the job by the hands of the indifferent or inattentive.
As we move into Independence celebrations and the Christmas holidays, there will surely be a swelling of traffic on our streets. We trust there will be the concomitant increase in driver awareness.
When we see the roadworks sign indicating any form of construction ahead, or men and women lining the street in the distance, the first thing we should do is become more alert and slow down, taking care to leave safely behind us
those road workers who are at obvious risk on the job.
All of us have the expectation when we leave our homes in the morning that we will return to them at night sure in safety. We ought not to deny our road workers such equivalent and deserving well-being.
We trust that Minister of Transport and Works Mr Lashley’s wading in on this heightened issue of road workers safety is no knee-jerk response to, or politically correct intervention in a matter that in short time will be returned to the back burner –– a customary practice of many of the powers that be. Carlene Stuart’s death ought not to be in vain.
Her dying, in the circumstances, must be the buttress for the safeness of our highways’ workers –– those whom she would have rather not left behind, and ought not to have been forced to.
Our deepest condolences to the family, close friends and colleagues of martyr Carlene Stuart.