EDITORIAL — Cayman’s latest roadway tragedy

Dr. Vary Jones-Leslie was a pioneer in Jamaican medicine, a supportive mentor and a warm and caring practitioner who flew to Grand Cayman on Monday to lend a hand at the Cayman Islands Hospital.

But shortly after her arrival, the physician became a patient – the victim of a tragic accident, struck by a taxi while crossing a roadway teeming with travelers. The following morning, the 62-year-old Jamaican obstetrician-gynecologist passed away.

In her years as a locum doctor in the Women’s Health Clinic, Dr. Jones-Leslie came to know many patients and providers. She was held in the highest regard. People who knew her describe a strong, compassionate woman who blazed a trail as one of the first female doctors in Jamaica and one who offered guidance and support to the women who followed her into the field.

They speak of Dr. Jones-Leslie’s impact on her home island and overseas; of her unshakable commitment to making a difference in people’s lives. We hope the doctor’s family and friends take some small comfort in these tributes. We and our country are deeply saddened and truly sorry for their loss.

However heartfelt, words alone do not amount to an effective response. The death of Dr. Jones-Leslie, along with numerous other fatalities and serious injuries that might have been avoided, demand action to make Cayman’s roadways safer through better traffic enforcement, design and use.

We at the Compass are quite familiar with the shortcomings of Owen Roberts Drive, the scene of Monday’s deadly accident. The roadway is busy with travelers (many of whom are tired from travel, distracted or confused by new surroundings) hurrying toward their destination on foot, in cars and by taxi. Yet this particular stretch of road lacks basic safety infrastructure, such as speed bumps or crossing lights for pedestrians.

Speaking broadly, many of Grand Cayman’s roadways were not designed to handle the volume of traffic they now must accommodate. Narrow, two-lane thoroughfares – crammed with buses, bicycles, pedestrians (often pushing baby carriages or “borrowed” shopping carts), heavy trucks (including construction equipment) and motor vehicles of every description and state of dilapidation – provide fertile ground for accidents.

We wonder how some of those vehicles even pass inspection. It is not uncommon to spot rapidly moving hunks of metal with heavily tinted windows, or without functioning brake or headlights, but sporting new inspection stickers all the same.

If similar standards for inspection were administered to Cayman Airways’ 737s, there would be no limit to the outrage (or the potential carnage).

Ground crew would never allow an airplane to take off if it weren’t flight-worthy. The same principles of public safety should apply to vehicles on our roads.

Then there is the enforcement of traffic laws. We would not presume to tell police how to do their jobs, but we insist they – like all public servants – do their jobs.

Cayman laws forbid speeding, aggressive and dangerous driving, cellphone use and other risky driver behavior. But if those laws aren’t being enforced, they are of little use.

And finally, there are drivers.

Earlier this month, local Rotary clubs, government and police launched the Share the Road campaign, aimed at communicating important safety lessons with all road users – whether they are in a vehicle, on foot or riding a bicycle.

As Rotary Club of Grand Cayman President Justin Bodden told the Compass, we all have a part to play in keeping our roads safe.

Nothing we do can go back to prevent the horrible accident that cut short a life, or any past accident that has resulted in death or serious injury, but we can resolve to do better moving forward.

It is the only real consolation we can offer to the too many people who have lost loved ones on Grand Cayman’s roadways, and is the only way to help prevent future fatalities and other families’ grief.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I had recently visited Dominican Republic and due to re-routing had to take a 4 hour ride in a taxi to get to my destination. They are building new roads everywhere and they are doing it right. It is impossible to speed trough a roundabout for example, for speed bumps and other traffic slowing measures simply make it impossible.

    Bermuda roads are hell on earth. Yet, they have an excellent public transportation and very skillful bus drivers to navigate these roads. The busses are clean, air-conditioned and always on time.

    Roads assessment (see below “Press Conference Launch held on January 16th, 2014”) was completed in the Cayman Islands few years ago. Why its result were not made public?

    “International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP) project –“The Next Generation of Road Assessment”
    Road crashes cause enormous grief to victims, their families and friends. They are also often a factor responsible for tipping a household into financial distress. The Cayman Islands recorded nine (9) road traffic deaths in 2011, equivalent to approximately 16.5 traffic deaths per 100,000 inhabitants and almost double the WHO’s 2013 figure of 8.7 traffic deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in High Income countries. Between 2007 and 2011, an average of over 1,400 accidents were recorded on Cayman Island roads per year, resulting in 40 deaths and 113 serious injuries.
    These incidents translate into lost productivity, medical expenses and grief. New road construction or rehabilitation projects in the Cayman Islands incorporate road safety feature into their design, however there remains a myriad of associated difficulties related to road infrastructure, institutional capacity, inadequate equipment, vehicle quality and driver behavior.
    This is where Julio Urzua, Regional Director, Latin America and the Caribbean and his team in iRAP (International Road Assessment Programme http://irap.org), the next generation of road assessment, have an important role to play.
    iRAP is a registered charity dedicated to saving lives through safer roads. iRAP works in partnership with government and non-government organizations to:
    Inspect High-risk roads and develop Star Ratings and Safer Roads Investment Plans,
    Provide training, technology and support that will build and sustain national, regional and local capability and
    Track road safety performance so that funding agencies can assess the benefits of their investment.
    iRAP will identify cost effective and often simple infrastructure improvements that will help improve Cayman’s roads for all users, motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.”

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