Authorities are blaming poor skills, speeding, increased stress and an explosion in the number of vehicles on the roads for an increase in bad driving.
Each explanation comes with a story, but the general belief is that driving in Grand Cayman is a growing hazard.
‘It’s totally lawless out there,’ said Mannie Myles, RCIP constable in the Traffic Department.
‘I have dealt with more accidents than ever in my life,’ he said.
‘People are driving like maniacs.
‘There are too many cars on the road and everyone is in a hurry,’ he said.
Ken Chan, general manager of Motor and General Insurance Company Ltd., echoes Mr. Myles.
‘The cause of the problem is speeding. People are aggressive and there’s a lot of stress out there.
‘We are writing off one car per week, and the severity of accidents may be worse.’
Raymond Richards, director of R&R Body Shop in Industrial Park, says he’s astonished by what can only be described as chaos on the roads.
‘I wonder how many crazy people are driving,’ he said.
‘There’s definitely a lot more accidents. People are not using the roads properly; they’re careless; they’re playing less attention to road signs and speed limits and their driving skills are just not there.’
Much of the blame is heaped on Hurricane Ivan, which, the men say, resulted in widespread financial hardship as people lost their homes, their jobs and their patience.
‘The hurricane brought a lot of frustration, and people tend to think a lot more and concentrate less,’ said Mr. Richards, who has been repairing cars for 25 years.
R&R is taking 30 vehicles off the streets every week, a 25 per cent increase from last year.
‘There are more cars and more drivers and less defensive driving,’ he said.
‘Driving takes concentration, but there is a lot of frustration, and people may come on the scene of an accident and don’t try to avoid it. They end up contributing to it.’
Mr. Chan said that after Hurricane Ivan, insurance settlements enabled people to buy bigger, better and more expensive cars, while motoring skills deteriorated and the cost of repairs and insurance escalated dramatically.
Cayman has between 33,000 and 35,000 licensed vehicles. Constable Myles estimates that 7,000 vehicles were lost in Ivan, but that 5,000 new ones were imported to replace them.
‘Then half of those derelict vehicles that were lost came back on the roads,’ he said.
While they had been repaired and inspected, the effect was to overcrowd – almost overwhelm – the capacity of the highway system.
‘People are not functioning, not thinking straight, not concentrating,’ said Mr. Myles.
Sergeant Adrian Barnett, second in charge of Operations at the RCIP Traffic Department, said 392 accidents were investigated between 4 July 2004 and now, and that by 1 July, the number is likely to hit 430.
Another 574 small mishaps, fender-benders, occurred.
Overall, 275 injuries or deaths were recorded, he said.
These numbers compare to 280 investigated accident the previous year and 153 casualties.
While uncertain as to the number of vehicles on Cayman roads, Sergeant Barnett none-the-less underscores a conclusion made the more gruesome by his very uncertainty.
‘These statistics have gone through the roof,’ he says.
He blames several factors: alcohol, inattention, inexperience and speeding. Generally speaking, on main roads, carelessness is responsible.
He blames Ivan almost as an afterthought.
‘There is road rage since the hurricane,’ he said. ‘People are not so patient and trying to get everywhere in a hurry.’