Esterley Tibbetts safety a concern

Government plans to widen a two lane section of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway that has been the scene of at least two major wrecks since November.

Esterley Tibbetts concern

PC Trevor Mills (left) and Chief Inspector Courtney Myles look at the Honda Civic involved in Friday nights crash.
Photo: Brent Fuller

A recent crash on the road between Camana Bay and the North Sound Road roundabout sent five people to hospital. In November, 39-year-old Shaney Tania Bar-On (known in Cayman as Shaney Kol) died after her SUV was stuck by a truck.

Police believe drivers attempting to overtake other vehicles along the road played a role in both accidents.

Officials with the National Roads Authority said long-term, they plan to widen the road from two to four lanes and place a divider in the centre of the highway. Authority Deputy Managing Director Edward Howard is hopeful funding could be included in government’s budget by July.

The cost of the project was preliminarily estimated at $4 million.

‘It is well recognised among traffic engineering circles that a two lane, urban/rural highway is much more dangerous and claims more lives per annum than a divided roadway with a central median,’ Mr. Howard wrote in an e-mailed response to Caymanian Compass questions.

‘Anyone who dares to say that the $4 million needed to improve this road…is a waste should then also be prepared to answer the question as to the value of a life.’

However, in the meantime, there are no short-term safety changes being contemplated by either the NRA, or the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

RCIPS Chief Inspector Courtney Myles questioned the effectiveness of measures such as eliminating the passing zone, which currently exists along most of the two lane highway between Camana Bay and North Sound Road.

‘I would not advocate for us to put a solid white line there,’ Mr. Myles said. ‘If somebody chooses to travel 35 miles-an-hour, the other drivers should have the option to overtake and proceed.’

Similarly, Mr. Howard said that lowering the 40 mile per hour speed limit now in place along that section of the Esterley would not be effective.

‘Doing this will only irritate the responsible drivers,’ he said.

While not commenting specifically on Friday night’s accident, which is still under investigation, Mr. Myles said the vast majority of accidents on Cayman’s roads have nothing to do with either the roads or the cars that are driven on them.

‘Ninety-five per cent of them are the fault of the drivers,’ Inspector Myles said.

The 19-year-old driver of the Honda Civic that collided head-on with a Nissan in the north-bound lane on Friday night was arrested on suspicion of DUI. As of press time she had not been charged.

An inspection of the Honda at the RCIPS Traffic Management Division showed two star-shaped cracks in the vehicle’s front windshield. Police believe the driver and her front-seat passenger’s heads struck the glass during the accident, which generally tends to indicate they were not wearing seat belts.

‘I would say the young ladies are most fortunate they are still alive today,’ Mr. Myles said.

Two of the four women in the vehicle were airlifted to Miami for further medical treatment after the wreck. The man driving the Nissan also survived.

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