34 percent drop in driving offenses so far this year
On the back of a six-year decline in the number of traffic citations issued, Cayman Islands traffic enforcement numbers dropped even lower during the first half of 2014.
According to figures released late last week by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, the number of traffic offenses declined by a third during the first six months of this year compared to the same period in 2013.
The figures show a 34 percent drop in DUI citations, from 112 to 74; a 41 percent decline in tickets for driving while using a cellphone (from 653 to 388); a 46 percent drop in speeding tickets (from 497 to 269); and a 68 percent drop in citations for seat belt violation, (from 330 to 105).
The number of traffic accidents reported during the first six months of 2014 also declined slightly compared to 2013.
There were no fatal vehicle accidents through the first six months of 2014. The death of 21-year-old Daniel Grant in a July motorcycle crash would not have been recorded in those statistics.
When lawmakers raised questions about the decline in traffic enforcement numbers earlier this year in the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee, police commissioner David Baines indicated that traffic unit officers had been reassigned several years ago at a time when the RCIPS was facing an “unprecedented” series of gang-related killings and had to shift its personnel to meet the community’s needs.
Since then, the specialist traffic unit has not been re-established.
“We have never grown our staff numbers, and at the same time we’ve had more demands placed on us,” Mr. Baines told the committee in June. “We’ve had to do things differently.”
Earlier this year, the Cayman Compass reported an overall 80 percent drop in speeding citations issued by the RCIPS since 2007.
In 2013, the number of speeding offenses for the calendar year totaled 811, a 53 percent drop from 1,735 such offenses in 2012.
In 2007, police cited more than 5,700 speeding offenses. In 2009, there were more than 5,500, according to police traffic statistics reports. Police officers handed out more speeding tickets during a two-month period in 2007 than for all of 2013, statistics show.
The numbers dropped a little in 2010, but the department still ticketed more than 4,000 speeders. It wasn’t until 2011 that police records show speeding offenses tapering off.
If speeding offenses continue to be issued at the same rate for the entire calendar year 2014, the RCIPS would cite only 538 drivers, nearly 300 fewer tickets than 2013’s tally.
Mr. Baines asked assembly members to consider the use of speed cameras – devices that take pictures of license plates on speeding vehicles – allowing the government to mail copies of tickets to the offenders. There are some issues with that technology in Cayman, Mr. Baines said, since there is no direct delivery government mail service to home addresses and not everyone maintains a post office box.
“Speed cameras have been used very successfully to prevent accidents … and indeed to fill treasury coffers,” he said. “They have no discretion. But as it stands at the moment, it would be thousands of extra summons [to court] served by my officers.”
Cayman’s current CCTV camera system has automatic plate reader cameras that can perform roughly the same functions as speed cameras but they are not currently used for such a purpose.