The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is taking steps to reduce the number of traffic fatalities in the Cayman Islands, Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan announced at a press briefing last week.
Nine people have died in seven fatal traffic accidents so far in 2006, surpassing the number of deaths on Cayman’s roads in all of 2005.
‘Nine is nine too many,’ Mr. Kernohan said. ‘Many of them were young people with significant promise. It’s a sad state of affairs to see them lose their lives on our roads.
“I appeal to motorists to think every time they get behind the wheel that they are putting their lives at risk if they drive in a dangerous manner. Drivers need to be responsible for their own actions and behaviour.”
Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony Ennis said the RCIPS was undertaking a very robust and concentrated effort to reduce the number of traffic fatalities.
‘It’s important to stop this uncivilised culture on our roads,’ he said. ‘It’s our community and we can’t just let a group of drivers with uncivilised behaviour take the rest of us hostage.’
People who drink alcohol and drive or who drive recklessly with excessive speed show utter disregard for the safety of others, Mr. Kernohan said, and should not be driving.
‘I would like to see reckless drivers have their licences taken from them because, quite frankly, their right to drive is less important than other people’s right to life.’
Mr. Kernohan said the RCIPS would be cracking down on some of the known causes of traffic fatalities, including speeding, drunk driving, careless driving, and to a lesser degree, the use of mobile telephones while driving.
Although there is currently no law against the latter, Mr. Kernohan said motorists would be targeted if their use of a cell phone while driving causes them to drive carelessly.
He noted that he recently was following someone who he thought was driving drunk because he was weaving all over the road, but he then discovered that person was just talking on a cell phone.
Motorists can be cited for not being in control of their vehicles if their talking on a cell phone causes them to do things like weave on the road while driving, Mr. Kernohan said.
The RCIP will also continue issuing citations for seatbelt offences.
Police statistics for the first quarter of 2006 show the RCIP has already stepped up enforcement of traffic offences.
So far this year, there have been 1,660 traffic offences, a 22 per cent increase over the figure in 2005.
Of that number, 821 have been for speeding offences.
The increase does not necessarily mean that more people are speeding than last year, only that the speed limits are being enforced more this year, Mr. Kernohan noted.
One tool Mr. Kernohan said that he would like to see utilised in reducing the number of speeders is remote enforcement technology, which are cameras which automatically take a photo of a car that is speeding. The cameras are able to capture the driver’s identity and the registration number of the car.
These devises are used in other places in the world and in some cases have reduced the number of speeders by large percentages. Mr. Kernohan said this was because of the certainty the devices create that a person will get cited for speeding if they do so as they pass one of the remote cameras.
Another thing the police would like to see happen is for people who are caught speeding to be made to attend court, rather than just paying a fine. The added inconvenience of having to take off of work and the embarrassment of appearing before a judge could serve as additional detriment to speeding, Mr. Ennis said.
Drunk drivers continue to be targeted by the RCIPS as well, with 63 people arrested for the offence. Twenty of those arrested for driving under the influence tested more than double the legal limit, and in one case, the level of alcohol was so high, it surpassed the limits of the reading device.
Mr. Kernohan asked for the public to assist in helping get drunk drivers off the road.
‘If you know someone who regularly drinks and drives, give us their registration number and we’ll do something about it,’ he said.
Mr. Kernohan said the traditional approach to reduce traffic casualties entails the three E’s- education, engineering and enforcement.
With regard to education, Mr. Ennis said a grassroots organisation made up of various civil servants is being organised partially to address that issue.
‘This is not a police-driven initiative,’ Mr. Ennis said, noting that he was only a member of the organisation.
Although he could not give details about the organisation, Mr. Ennis said it would make a public announcement in the near future.
The National Road Authority is represented in the organisation, which will help it address the engineering aspect of traffic fatality reduction.