Accident rate is up

Police statistics police show 1,591 reported road traffic accidents between 1 January, 2008, and mid-March 2009, averaging about 110 accidents per month.

car collisions

Car collisions map.

West Bay Road has more accidents than any other in Grand Cayman, but parking lots at gas stations and supermarkets come a close second.

More than a tenth of the accidents – 179 – occurred on West Bay Road, mostly between Queen’s Court and Governors Square. Another 139 happened in car parks at petrol stations or supermarkets.

Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Constable Tim Balls collated the statistics.

‘Obviously, the roads/locations with the heaviest traffic do have the most accidents,’ he said. ‘It is surprising to see that so many occur in parking lots.’

The figures on the locations of traffic accidents, released in response to a request from the Caymanian Compass, show that the Butterfield Roundabout is Cayman’s most dangerous roundabout, with 45 of the 129 accidents involving traffic circles occurring there.

Other roundabouts noted for the frequency of collisions are Red Bay Roundabout, where there have been 26 accidents, and Elgin Avenue Roundabout where 22 smashes have occurred.

The worst junction on the island is at the traffic lights at the corner of Shedden and North Sound roads, where 31 collisions were recorded – an average of more than two a month.

Other junctions where collisions are most likely to occur – based on the frequency of previous accidents – include Dorcy Drive and North Sound Road; the junction of Crewe Road and Smith Road at the end of the airport runway; North Sound Road and Portland Road at A.L. Thompson’s; and West Bay Road and Willie Farrington Drive.

At the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, where a number of fatal accidents have happened along the stretch from Butterfield Roundabout to Lawrence Boulevard roundabout, 28 accidents occurred from January 2008 to mid-March this year.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of traffic accidents occurred on some of the island’s longest roads. Along Shamrock Road, which runs from Prospect to Bodden Town, 99 accidents were recorded, although police noted that the area of road in the vicinity of Countryside Mall was of particular concern.

On Crewe Road, 87 accidents occurred, while on North Sound Road, there were 79 collisions, with the stretches of road by the Mirco Centre and at the Compass Centre and Plaza Venezia being noted hotspots.

Road safety strategy

The National Roads Authority is tasked with implementing traffic calming measures to help reduce the number of road traffic accidents. However, statistics relating to accidents at specific locations have not previously been supplied by the police, according to the NRA chief Brian Tomlinson.

The NRA is carrying out a study of dangerous junctions throughout the island, but has had to rely on anecdotal evidence of the frequency and seriousness of the traffic accidents at those locations because the specific numbers were not readily available.

‘It is standard practice worldwide for the police to furnish accident reports to traffic engineers for the evaluation of collision occurrences and to introduce any needed countermeasures,’ he said. ‘Collision history is vital to the engineer in establishing countermeasures to remedy accident hotspots.

‘We have not been able to obtain traffic accident reports from the RCIPS for a long time. However we recently met with them and we believe we have established a procedure whereby this information will soon be made available to us for analysis.’

The Road Authority expects to release the recommendations from its study – which could include installing traffic lights, roundabouts, road humps, four-or-three-way stops, or changing how often and for how long traffic lights change colour – later this year.

The NRA has erected ‘Use your indicators’ signs at some roundabouts, a move Mr. Tomlinson hopes will cut down on the number of accidents on the traffic circles.

‘NRA firmly believes the majority of Butterfield roundabout collisions stem from improper use of the roundabout,’ he said. ‘When we listened to the recent talk shows on roundabouts, we recognised that there is a number of varying misguided opinions on how dual lane roundabouts should operate.

‘There are even differing opinions within the RCIPS, which makes the whole issue even that much more frustrating.’

Mr. Tomlinson said roundabout education is definitely required.

‘One of our engineers reports that they parked for a few minutes to observe indicator use at Butterfield Roundabout a few weeks ago,’ he said. ‘More people appear to be using their indicators, but then there are still a significant number of drivers who are not. A lot of motorists also appeared oblivious to their surroundings as they were engaged in conversation on their cell phones.’

All of Cayman’s eight junctions with signals are included in the NRA study with a view to improving traffic flow and safety. The Authority is also studying the East-West Arterial Corridor to improve capacity and safety.

Mr. Tomlinson argued that collisions in car parks should not be included in road traffic accident statistics, saying this misrepresented road collision data.

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