A steep rise in the number of vehicular accidents this year, mainly due to drivers losing control, has resulted in a near trebling of the number of road fatalities.
The Barbados Fire Service (BFS) is reporting a 22.4 per cent increase in road accidents as of December 27, when compared with the same period last year.
BFS statistics reveal 93 motor vehicle accidents so far this year, compared to 76 last year. Up to December 6 there were 24 fatal accidents resulting in 27 road deaths, nearly three times the ten fatalities for all of 2016.
“The Fire Service is concerned with safety on our roads with regard to motor vehicle accidents, and one notable factor was that in many of the accidents drivers lost control of their vehicle,” Acting Chief Fire Officer Ricardo Gittens told Barbados TODAY in a recap of 2017.
Often bemoaning the rising number of road fatalities, the Barbados Road Safety Association (BRSA) has been persistent in its calls for measures to stem the tide.
BRSA President Sharmane Roland-Bowen has been demanding that the authorities come down hard on drivers found culpable for road fatalities and for the introduction of breathalyzer tests to cut down on drink driving.
Just last month Parliament approved the Road Traffic Amendment Act, which among other measures, allows for breathalyzer tests and random testing of public service vehicle operators for drug and alcohol consumption.
It is hoped that this legislation will help to minimize the number of road traffic accidents.
However, the senior fire official is hoping that common sense will prevail in 2018 and drivers will “stop engaging in practices that can cause them to lose control or become distracted.
“Some practices that can enhance vigilance when driving are not using the cell phone or other devices, be it texting or watching videos, driving defensively and observing and adhering to traffic signals and speed limits,” Gittens advised.
Another area of concern for the BFS is the practice by some drivers of failing to yield to emergency vehicles.
Griffith appealed to these drivers to be considerate and to allow emergency vehicles to go through “as it helps us to render faster assistance to those persons in need”.
In a potentially dangerous practice, an increasing number of Barbadians are also placing calls to the fire service for no other reason than malicious intent, the senior fire officer revealed.
Griffith said that in addition to a 15 per cent increase in electrical fires, there was an 8.5 per cent rise in false alarm with malicious intent, when compared to 2016.
Overall, there were 102 false alarms with malicious intent, compared to the 94 recorded last year, and 75 electrical fires, compared to the 65 last year and the 42 in 2015.
Fires of various kinds increased slightly – from 1,773 for all of last year to 1,780 so far this year – while there was a drastic fall in derelict house fires, down from 13 last year to only two so far this year, and eight fires to commercial buildings compared to 13 last year.
While the number of vehicular accidents rose, the number of motor vehicle fires dropped from 49 last year to 41 this year, sugar cane blazes were down from 41 in 2016 to 37 this year, and tree fires fell to 13, compared to 23 the previous year.
Thanking individuals, corporate Barbados and partners of the Barbados Fire Service for their support in 2017, Gittens said he was pleased that several entities requested fire safety and evacuation training as well as inspection of their premises throughout the year.
“The Barbados Fire Service wishes to . . . urge them to continue this worthwhile practice in reducing fire loss as this is of great concern,” he said.