Young men wreck most

A review of fatal crashes in the Cayman Islands over the past two years shows young men, many of whom are Caymanian, have made up the majority of those killed since 1 January, 2005.

Of the 22 people who have died in wrecks since that time, 19 were men and just three were women; only one of those women was actually driving. The average age of the all the drivers, passengers, or pedestrians killed in Cayman Islands accidents since that date was 27. The average age of male drivers, passengers or pedestrians killed was 24. The average age of females killed was 48.

Of those who died, 15 were driving, six were passengers, and one was a pedestrian. The average age of all drivers killed was 27. The average age of the male drivers killed was 23.5.

The two oldest car crash victims were women aged 53 and 74, which drove the average numbers up slightly. If those two are taken out of the total, the average age of those killed was slightly under 24.

Perhaps most troubling of all, 15 of the 22 people killed in vehicle accidents since 1 January, 2005, were age 26 or younger; six were teenagers. All but one of the 15 youngest victims was male.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service statistics provided to the Caymanian Compass did not give the time of day each accident was reported in 2005. But that information was provided for 2006 and for this year.

It appears most of the 16 fatalities last year and so far in 2007 did occur at night, but there was not a huge difference. Five accidents, resulting in six deaths happened during the daylight hours; eight accidents resulting in 10 deaths happened after dark had fallen.

Similarly, the RCIPS statistics don’t pinpoint one area where fatal accidents keep recurring. The most common location for road deaths was along various stretches of Shamrock Road where six of the 22 fatalities occurred.

The four most recent deadly traffic accidents in Cayman have claimed five young men all of whom were between the ages of 18 and 21.

One crash, which killed 18- and 19-year-old cousins in December, spurred Education Minister Alden McLaughlin to announce that drivers’ education programmes would eventually be a mandatory part of public school education. Specific details of that plan have not been produced.

The recent wrecks have also renewed public interest in changes to the island’s Traffic Law, which implements a graduated licencing programme for teen drivers. Those amendments were passed in March 2005 by the Legislative Assembly, but have so far not been implemented.

Some road safety advocates are growing impatient.

The MattSafe organization, a group that helps educate the public about driving safety with the goal of reducing fatal wrecks involving teenage drivers, sent a petition to the Cayman Islands Government last week asking the Cabinet to make every effort to ‘stem the tide of what is fast becoming an epidemic.’

‘They’re working on it. It’s not with the speed we would want to see, and I can only urge government: please guys, it’s so important,’ said Wiekert Weber, co-president of MattSafe.

Works and Infrastructure Minister Arden Mclean said the government had intended to implement the part of the law, which included the graduated licencing initiative on 1 January.

However, he recently said problems were found in the section of the law that dealt with driving instruction and that government withdrew the proposed commencement date until changes could be made.

Mr. McLean did not give an exact timeline for the completion of those revisions.

Mr. Weber said he feared the closer the government comes to an election year, the greater the chances that a controversial proposal like graduated licencing would be left by the roadside.

‘This may be an unpopular measure, although that seems odd to me because you’re trying to save the lives of young Caymanians,’ said Mr. Weber. ‘But it will be more difficult, you will have to pay more money to get your licence.’

Mr. Mclean has said he’s been meeting with MattSafe members, and hoped the graduated licencing programme would be implemented this year.