Safety assessment teams are hitting the highways and byways of the Cayman Islands to give star ratings on the state of local roads.
The object of the exercise is to identify roads that are under par in terms of safety so they can be improved and, in turn, the number of fatal accidents slashed.
The initiative, which began last week, was launched in response to the increasing number of traffic deaths on local roads in recent years, government officials said.
According to the National Roads Authority, nine road traffic deaths were recorded in 2011, which equates to a rate of 16.5 traffic deaths per 100,000 people. This is almost double the World Health Organizations’s 2013 figure of 8.7 traffic deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in high income countries.
An average of 1,400 road traffic accidents occurred in Cayman between 2007-2011, NRA officials reported.
“The ministry, out of concern for certain mishaps at various roundabouts and also unfortunately some fatal crashes, decided that it was in the country’s best interest to do a road assessment in order to determine what actions were needed,” Kurt Tibbetts, the minister responsible for roads, said.
The NRA has teamed up with the International Road Assessment Program, a nonprofit organization that is providing road inspections, road safety investment plans, technology and support to the Cayman Islands.
The road assessment project will cost US$155,000, NRA officials said.
“Cayman Islands is not an exception of the huge problem of road safety that is worldwide … Together with safer roads, user behavior, safer speeds and safer vehicles, IRAP can help to save many lives in the Cayman Islands,” the regional director of the International Road Assessment Program, Julio Urzua, said.
Speaking at a press conference to announce details of the program Thursday, officials said road inspections will be done with an NRA vehicle outfitted with five cameras to collect digital and panoramic images or videos of roads.
These images are then used to record “road design attributes” and will be recorded at 100-meter intervals. These attributes determine the likelihood of a crash and its severity. An analysis team will survey 237 miles of local roads.
“We are going to collect the data with high technology that later is going to be analyzed with a special software and, finally, we are going to deliver the results,” said Mr. Urzua.
The program targets roads where pedestrians, motorcyclists, car occupants and bicyclists are “killed and injured with brutal regularity,” Mr. Urzua added.
Mr. Tibbetts said that the current state of Cayman’s roads is “very dangerous” and “likely to cause more deaths.”
Cayman’s roads will receive a star rating of between 1 and 5, with 5 the highest safety rating, based on the data collected.
“The end goal of all this is that we will see what roads are rated 2 and 1 in terms of the lowest on the safety totem pole, and our goal is [not to] have any low star rating roads,” said Edward Howard, acting managing director of the National Roads Authority.
Improving the state of Cayman’s roads may not prevent accidents involving high speeds and drunk drivers, but it may impact the seriousness of accidents, the NRA’s transportation planner, Marion Pandohie, explained.
“The great thing about this particular program is that, even though if you do have an accident, the idea is for the road to forgive that person, so if they do have an accident, they don’t die, so that they don’t have another fatality,” she said.
Ms Pandohie said the survey started last week and will continue until next Friday. A follow-up report, which will contain countermeasures for road safety, is estimated to be released in June.