EDITORIAL – A ‘crash course’ in DVDL logic

“On the road again; just can’t wait to get on the road again …”

– Willie Nelson

A government vehicle inspector totaled a sports car he was testing, leading to a charge of “careless driving,” which could result in a fine, jail time or disqualification of driving for up to a year.

For instructors of English literature seeking to differentiate between irony and comedy, there could not be a clearer example than the case of the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing (DVDL) inspector.

For observers of the Cayman Islands government, the situation also illustrates the limitations of the local justice system and the mantle of protectionism that shields the country’s civil servants from accountability.

Consider the following: The crash occurred more than five months ago, during which time the inspector continued working at a desk job. Meanwhile, the DVDL commissioned an “independent” internal investigation that predictably, cleared the inspector of serious culpability, and the agency allowed him to resume his duties as a test driver.

It would be humorous, if it were not so serious.

To be clear, we do not believe in adjudicating cases in the pages of the newspaper, and we are certainly mindful of “sub judice” rules as they relate to ongoing court cases.

However, it is the DVDL – not the Compass – which has sought to “pre-judge” the behavior of the inspector. By hiring an outside crash analysis expert (presumably using public funds), then publishing the resulting exoneration of their own employee (before he has even appeared in court), the department and its director, David Dixon, have demonstrated, not necessarily “contempt of court” in the narrow legal sense, but certainly a contempt for Cayman’s law enforcement and justice system.

If we were not staring at the DVDL’s press release right now, it would be difficult to believe a government agency could be so contemptuous of the intelligence of the public – the very constituency it is in place to serve.

Blaming the crash on “the driver not being familiar with the performance capabilities of the vehicle” (isn’t that a defining characteristic of a vehicle inspector’s job?), Mr. Dixon took it upon himself to rule out “bad faith” on the part of the inspector and concluded that the inspector’s actions did not breach the Public Service Code of Conduct. (Must be one heck of a Code of Conduct.)

Accordingly, Mr. Dixon felt comfortable putting the inspector back behind the wheel of other people’s vehicles – this at a time when our police have just announced an aggressive campaign to keep unsafe drivers off our streets.

For context, the crash occurred on July 11 (a Monday) in broad daylight on a busy road in front of multiple witnesses, one of whom used the following terms in her description of what happened, “reckless … racing … zigzagging … speeding.”

The modified Toyota Supra driven by the inspector vaulted the center median of Crewe Road, knocked over a power pole and ended up facing the wrong way on the opposite side of the road.

Pretty much everyone in Cayman is already familiar with the details. We know this because our story on the crash, featuring a photo of the totaled Toyota, was the single most read story on the Compass website in the past year. It attracted tens of thousands of views.

We will leave it to the judge to determine if the inspector’s behavior constitutes the legal definition of “careless driving,” but it certainly appears to have been dangerous, senseless and condemnable.

We do not need to wait for a judge, however, to observe that in some ways, the DVDL’s actions after the accident have been far more troubling than the crash itself.

 

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