Younger drivers avoid fatal wrecks

Cayman Islands drivers in their late teens and 20’s are not getting involved in anywhere near the number of deadly car accidents they were just two years ago.

Statistics compiled by the Caymanian Compass show the average ages of both the drivers and victims involved in those wrecks has gone up significantly.

However, the total number of fatal accidents occurring in Cayman has not decreased much in the past three years. In 2008, 11 people died in vehicle accidents. Cayman saw the same number of traffic deaths, 11, in 2007. Fourteen people died in accidents here in 2006.

In the year just ended, only three of the 11 people who died in car crashes were under the age of 30. No teenagers were killed in car crashes last year. The only teen driver involved in a deadly crash in 2008 was 19-year-old Alex Callan who’s now charged in connection with a one-car smash up that killed Sidney Myles and Bruce Lee Ebanks following a police chase. Mr. Callan survived the accident.

The average age of people killed in vehicle accidents last year was 39. The average age of drivers involved in those accidents was 37.

That compares to 22 road deaths from 1 January, 2005 to 31 January, 2007.

The average age of those who died in wrecks over those two years was 27, according to data compiled by the Caymanian Compass. Fifteen of the 22 people killed during that period were age 26 or younger, and six were teenagers.

It seems the trend began in April 2007, following the 31 March crash that killed Heven Stanford Rankine. The six people who died in accidents for the remainder of the year were all above 38 years of age. In the first three months of 2007, car accidents claimed Mr. Rankine, 25, two 20-year olds and an 18-year-old.

While the fact that fewer young lives are being lost on local roads may seem encouraging in one sense, fatal crashes are not the only kinds of accidents younger drivers can get into.

In some cases, police have said pure luck may have played a role in saving lives.

Notable among those was a head-on collision which occurred 14 March along a two-lane section of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway in George Town.

Police investigating the crash said a teenage driver and three of her friends in a Honda Civic collided head-on with a Nissan, sending two of the young women off island with serious injuries. They were eventually able to recover.

An inspection of the Honda at the RCIPS Traffic Management Division in March showed two star-shaped cracks in the front windshield. Police said it appeared the driver’s and the front-seat passenger’s heads struck the glass during the accident, which generally indicates someone not wearing a seat belt during a front-end collision.

‘I would say the young ladies are most fortunate they are still alive today,’ RCIPS Chief Inspector Courtney Myles said at the time. The man driving the Nissan also survived the crash.

Statistics released for the first half of 2008, the latest which are available, show the five people involved in that March crash aren’t the only ones police could say were fortunate.

Total traffic accidents in the first half of 2008 went up by 16 per cent, when compared with the first half of 2007. Drink driving arrests went up 36 per cent in the first half of last year after a slight decline in 2007.

Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis urged drivers earlier in the year not to become complacent about road safety, which despite the best efforts of police, apparently remains a struggle.

‘Although it is crime that has been making the headlines recently, it would be remiss of me not to mention what has been taking place on our roads,’ Mr. Ennis said, adding that police were still disappointed in the number of accidents occurring.