Road death numbers staggering

Road fatalities nearly tripled in the Cayman Islands last year.

The deaths on Cayman’s roads claimed the lives of 14 people in 2006, which represents a 133 per cent increase, according to data from the Royal Cayman Islands Police.

The figures are all the more alarming, according to road safety groups, when viewed alongside the fact that the 2006 deaths are only two more than the combined road fatality total from 2003 to the end of 2005.

The previous highest total was in 2002 when eight people died on Cayman roads.

Police statistics also show speed was a contributing factor in most 2006 road deaths with over half the fatalities being young adults aged 17- to 26-years-old.

‘We are very concerned about young adult drivers and teens in particular,’ said Chief Inspector Courtney Myles of the Traffic Management Department.

‘They need to be more careful of the fact that motor-vehicles can be deadly weapons when not operated in a proper manner.’

He suggested that more education needs to be targeted toward young drivers.

Nine vehicle-related deaths in the first four months of 2006 were the early indications that last year might see an upswing in road fatalities.

The last three road deaths of last year were in a 24-hour period and did much to highlight the high death toll, despite a plethora of programmes launched to promote safe driving.

The Traffic Management Department and the National Roads Safety Council spearheaded several such initiatives in 2006 including StreetSkill, targeting seatbelt wearing, crackdowns on speeding; and big truck safety training.

Though it is still a little early to tell, Chief Inspector Myles said such programmes are beginning to bear fruit.

‘We have seen a marked improvement in persons using their seatbelts,’ he said. ‘However there is still room for significant improvement.

‘We have received a lot of assistance from the public with persons reporting those observed driving dangerously, speeding and driving whilst intoxicated,’ he said.

‘We would urge the public to continue to report these incidents as and when they occur.’

Mr. Myles said the amendment to the Traffic Law, which will introduce a graduated driver’s licence for those younger than 21, was likely to come into effect early this year.

The revision means that with a learner’s permit, teens will have to complete a longer period of supervised driving before acquiring a restricted licence.

The scheme to increase the road awareness and road skills of young drivers involves two options.

Learning drivers can undertake 20 hours of instruction by a professional instructor. Obtaining a full licence in this way will take a minimum of 15 months. The other option is to obtain a full driver’s licence in 18 months by undertaking 40 hours driving practice with a mature driver, who has held a license for a minimum of three years.

Another government-led initiative in the works is the possible acquisition of speed cameras.

No firm date has been set for their introduction.

For Wiekert Weber, co-president of the road safety group MattSafe, the statistics confirm a worrying trend that needs to be addressed by everyone.

‘Not only is there an alarming increase in the number of road fatalities but also the number of teens/young adolescents killed in traffic accidents,’ he said.

‘A 180 per cent increase in road deaths [since 2000] demands all our attention.’

While keen for government to implement the graduating drivers licence, MattSafe wants parents to act more responsibly.

‘The onus is not only with Government. Parents should play a more involved role in the process of teen driving and remind their sons and daughters of their responsibilities.

‘They must also understand that by allowing their children to modify their cars for speed or performance, they are risking their children’s lives and those of others,’ he said.