Road safety advocates are expressing concern that pedestrians are contributing to thousands of road traffic accidents.
And they are calling for jail time for pedestrians and other road users who are found guilty of causing an accident or using the road without due care.
So far this year, there have been 6,550 reported road accidents and 27 deaths from 25 crashes, compared to last year’s 7,902 reported accidents and 28 road deaths.
“Some pedestrians contribute to their own demise,” said Sergeant Seibert Johnson of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) Traffic Division who declared he was “very concerned” about the number of road deaths for the year, as he addressed the official launch of Road Safety Month at the Co-operators General Insurance’s office on Thursday.
“Our concerns as it relates to accidents, we found that pedestrians have contributed to our road fatalities so far for the year,” said Johnson, who could not say exactly how many of the road deaths in which pedestrians were at fault, but noted that six of the 27 deaths were pedestrians.
Stating that he was sending a strong message to pedestrians to be careful when crossing the road, Johnson said too many of them were being careless.
Many pedestrians were disembarking from public transport and crossing in front of those buses and route taxis “not knowing what the conditions are on the road”.
The police officer said investigations have revealed over the years that most accidents are caused by “human error”, adding “speeding is a contributing factor for most of our fatalities and serious accidents we have had so far for the year. Persons are driving too quickly on our streets and it is a cause for concern”.
But he warned that “pedestrians should still be cognizant of vehicular movements.
“If you are on a crossing you don’t approach it and just dash across. You stop, stretch your hand out to indicate to the driver your intention to cross and he or she stops and you cross. Don’t take it for granted the driver recognize you there when you are about to cross,” he said.
Road Safety Week, which begins on November 18 with a church service, is being celebrated here under the theme Designate One, which seeks to use of a designated driver whenever drinkers go out.
The president of the Barbados Road Safety Association Sharmane Roland-Bowen said although the message was geared mainly towards drivers, pedestrians should also remain vigilant.
“We don’t want to see pedestrians drinking alcohol and using the roads because they can contribute to accidents themselves,” she said.
Roland-Bowen expressed disappointment that too many pedestrians were using the roadways indiscriminately and were not made to feel the consequences of doing so.
“We are on record stating that someday we would like to see pedestrian offences [attract jail time] – pedestrians not using zebra crossings and crossing when they are in a certain distance from zebra crossing; when they are walking and using their cell phones indiscriminately on the road; when they walk or use the road after being intoxicated; these are some of the offences,” she explained.
“We can’t be penalizing one category of road users and leave another category that can [contribute to accidents]. If we really sit down and look at it we can see a number of areas where pedestrians themselves contribute to these accidents…. If we can get them suffering the consequences for their illegal actions we would see a better result where accidents are reduced on our roads,” she said.
The road safety advocate also said she believed lives were being “devalued” by authorities due to a lack of enforcement of road laws.
“When we fail to protect, as is the responsibility of any government, we fail our people and we devalue their life,” she said.
General Manager of Co-operators General Insurance Company Anton Lovell also expressed frustration at the “unacceptable” number of road accidents yearly.
Based on insurance claims, approximately 90 per cent of the causes of road accidents are as a result of human error, he said.
“Out of the 90 per cent about 65 per cent are as a result of recklessness, carelessness, lawlessness and thoughtlessness,” said Lovell.
“Recklessness and carelessness and lawlessness [don’t] apply only to the drivers of vehicles. I see the pedestrian crossings and about 15 yards either above or below, people ignore the pedestrian crossing and dash across the road or walk across the road aimlessly. So it is just carelessness on the part of all –pedestrians, drivers, motorcyclers and bicyclers – we are in problems,” he said.