Today’s Editorial for January 2: Roundabout education

There were two vehicular accidents near roundabouts on Tuesday, one of which proved to be fatal.

We don’t know how many accidents have occurred on or near roundabouts over the course of 2008, but we’re sure the number is relatively high.

Statistically, roundabouts have proven to be safer than other kinds of junctions or intersections, possibly even here in the Cayman Islands.

However, the fact remains that roundabouts here are not as safe as they should be, mainly because too many motorists just don’t know how to use them properly. This is especially the case with two-lane roundabouts.

Too often, motorists stay in the outside lane to travel half, three-quarters or even all the way around a roundabout, not realising they really shouldn’t be there, and if they are, they must yield to vehicles that are exiting the roundabout from the centre lane. Given the basic lack of understanding exhibited by motorists here for how to use two-lane roundabouts, it’s a wonder there aren’t accidents on them every day.

The lack of knowledge can be attributed to many causes, starting with the fact that roundabouts are a relatively new phenomenon here. Add to that the fact that many Cayman Islands residents and visitors come from places where roundabouts aren’t used a lot, or at all, and it’s no wonder people don’t know how to use them.

The National Roads Authority has tried to educate people about how to use two-lane roundabouts by inserting flyers in the newspapers and pamphlets in post boxes. Unfortunately, it appears a lot of people don’t actually read them.

It is time for the government to create legislation or regulations that ensure that people who can legally get behind the steering wheel and drive a vehicle in the Cayman Islands know the rules of our roads first.

Another option is for the police to start ticketing people who use the roundabouts incorrectly.

In the meantime, it has been suggested to us that the National Roads Authority could erect signs on the roundabouts showing motorists how to use them.

Another problem stems from the fact that some motorists do not seem to realise they need to slow down before entering a roundabout because of its sharp curves. Maybe signs need to be erected or rumble strips put on the road on the approach to a roundabout to remind motorists they need to reduce their speed.

Based on the proliferation of roundabouts in recent years, it is obvious they have become the junction type of choice here. If used properly, they are undoubtedly the safest and least costly type of junction. But unless motorists are forced to learn how to use them correctly, they will cause an increasing number of accidents and, most seriously, more deaths.

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