Just a month into 2017, Barbados has recorded seven road fatalities – seven too many. That’s compared to ten recorded at the end of last year, which marked the lowest number of deaths from road accidents in 30 years.
Then there are also the daily accidents in which too many are injured. Just yesterday alone, nine people were injured in four accidents.
If this trend continues, with so many cars on our roads, more families will have to endure unnecessary grief – if no intensive effort is made to convince the public to take road safety more seriously.
This was indeed the latest call by the Barbados Road Safety Association (BRSA), which in recent months has been flagging the powers that be to act now to put the brakes on bad road practices.
On the heels of Sunday’s horrific calamity which left four young people dead and three others seriously injured, a frustrated president of the BRSA Sharmane Roland-Bowen said: “Now is the time to act by prioritizing the safety of our people and ending the procrastination towards safety on our roads that is now accruing in our country.”
We aver it’s a call that requires attention. For while debate continues to rage about whether accidents just happen or they are caused, the bigger question must be, why are there so many accidents every day?
Even without the benefit of scientific research and technical expertise, a number of factors easily come to the fore – bad roads, poor drivers, vehicles that are not road worthy, poor lighting, inadequate road signs and much more.
The BRSA has been making loud recommendations, which include the training and licensing of drivers, the introduction of breathalyzer testing and the accompanying legislation to deter drunk driving, just to mention a few.
On the latter, drunk driving is not a small offence; it is a serious crime with devastating consequences. And, as such, those found to be driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs which can impair their judgement deserve very serious punishment, including losing their licences for a long period, or for life if necessary.
Authorities have seen enough carnage to table the requisite legislation. And with basic road sense increasingly becoming a thing of the past, there is a strong case for all road users to be educated on the correct use of the roads.
Some motorists hardly obey traffic lights – amber now means to speed. Drivers overtake recklessly – four and five vehicles at a time, even around corners; too many refuse to stop at pedestrian crossings and others hardly observe speed limits, particularly on the highway where the 80 mile-per-hour limit appears to be an incentive to speed.
Consideration for other road users and defensive driving with constant appreciation of road conditions, all help avoid mistakes. But this is hardly possible if the driver is talking incessantly on a cellphone.
Pedestrians themselves are no less guilty. Some members of the public cross the road whenever and wherever they like, daring motorists to hit them.
They, too, are guilty of not paying attention, talking on cellphones or wearing earphones while walking the streets.
Also important is the upkeep of vehicles. Despite established inspection regulations, vehicles can be seen every day that should not be on the road.
Authorities also have a duty to maintain proper roads, and have clear road markings and signs and adequate lighting in all areas.
Motorists and pedestrians alike must step up their efforts to abide by the law and be wise on the roads.
Law enforcers must engage all stakeholders to develop better strategies to make our roads safe, and ultimately save lives.