It’s those short sections of road that will get you.
Fortunately, they are not likely to kill you.
A review of data provided by the Cayman Islands Royal Police Service shows that in the past three years, reported accidents in the islands have more than doubled. The data also show some of the island’s minor roads are the most prone for accidents.
The worst culprit?
Godfrey Nixon Way.
The .25-mile section of blacktop between the Butterfield Roundabout and Eastern Avenue had the highest density of accidents. In 2017, 58 accidents were reported on the road, 67 if you count the accidents that took place at its intersection with Butterfield Roundabout. That works out to 252 accidents per mile of road per year for the highly traveled street. None of the accidents resulted in a serious injury, according to the reports.
It has also become much more accident prone, with the number of accidents reported on the road increasing 346 percent between 2015 and 2017.
No other road comes close.
Eastern Avenue, into which Godfrey Nixon Way feeds, had a rate of 125 accidents per mile for the same period – 109 accidents over its .87-mile length. Accidents on the road were up 203 percent in the three-year period.
Overall, the number of reported accidents in Cayman jumped 114 percent from 2015 to 2017. Police officials said nothing has changed in the way they are recording traffic accidents. They did not have a clear explanation for the increase, but suggested more cars on the road combined with construction projects might play a part.
Hugh Dickson, 54, said that figure does not surprise him. In the 11 years he has lived in Cayman, he said, “the standard of behavior has gotten much worse.”
Mr. Dickson’s home country is Tanzania.
“I’ve been to a lot of exotic places where the driving is worse,” he said of Cayman, “but for the standards we have here, the drivers are pretty awful.”
He thinks part of the problem is that Cayman residents come from a wide range of countries where traffic laws are often different. That is exacerbated, he said, by what he sees as lax enforcement. He’d like to see an increase in the number of traffic cops.
“You’ve got vehicles without license plates,” Mr. Dickson said. “You’ve got vehicles with illegal tint. You see examples every day and the police don’t penalize them. You see examples every day of bad behavior on the road without any penalties. How do you hold anyone to account?”
Jessica Barefoot, 22, is from Cayman, but learned to drive in Canada.
“I would say Cayman has the best and worst drivers,” Ms. Barefoot said, “the worst, because no one knows how to drive, the best because I haven’t died yet.”
She said she thinks there need to be stricter rules in place for getting a driver’s license. When she got her Cayman license, she said, she was not required to show that she had taken driving lessons in Canada.
She also thinks alcohol is a significant factor in the number of accidents on the island.
The police data show accident rates on the islands are substantially higher than those of other countries.
A highly cited study from 2014, “Mortality from Road Crashes in 193 Countries: A Comparison with Other Leading Causes of Death” by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, shows that Cayman is no Namibia. That country, rated as the worst for vehicle deaths, had 45 fatalities annually per 100,000 people.
In 2015, Cayman had a rate of 18 per 100,000. That rate did not get it into the bottom 10 – Iraq and the Dominican Republic tied for 10th at 32 – but it also did not come close to making the top 10, where only 3 points separated Switzerland (10th with 5) and Maldives, which was deemed the safest country, with only 2 vehicle deaths per 100,000. Among the 10 safest countries were the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, with only 4 deaths per 100,000.
Just to the north, the United States reported a vehicle death rate in 2015 of 10.9. That same year, Cayman’s rate was 18.3, with 11 people killed in accidents on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. For that same year, Great Britain’s rate was 3.8.
Comparing the Cayman Islands to the United States, or even Great Britain, is arguably not a fair measure. American drivers, on average, put more than 13,000 miles on their cars each year. In the UK, it is just under 8,000.
An official at the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing laughed when asked if there was an official estimate of annual miles driven by Cayman residents. But it is probably fair to assume that if such a figure were available, it would likely be far lower than that of either of the other two countries. Most small nations do not compile such statistics. But according to U.S. Department of Transportation data, in 2014, the average car in Puerto Rico was driven about 5,800 miles.
Since 2015, while the number of reported accidents have climbed, fatalities have dropped. Only seven people died in vehicle accidents in 2017 – four of those were killed in a single accident – dropping the per capita rate to 11.4 deaths per 100,000.
The number of people seriously injured in accidents took a dip in 2016, but otherwise did not change much. In 2015, 33 people had serious injuries. That dropped to 21 in 2016. But it climbed back to 31 in 2017.
The data show the worst roads for combined fatalities and injuries were the portions of Shamrock and West Bay roads that run through George Town. Over the three-year period, two people were killed and 14 injured on Shamrock Road while accidents on West Bay accounted for two deaths and nine serious injuries.
Although the data indicate all of those accidents happened within George Town, it is difficult to know whether the report is completely accurate.
A single accident on Austin Conolly Drive in 2017 killed four people, making that road, statistically, the most deadly in the islands. While the report gets the street name correct, it indicates the fatal accident took place in George Town rather than East End where Austin Conolly Drive is located. There are also a number of accidents that appear to be duplicate entries, but not enough to significantly alter the overall data.
That data does not make Jade Johnson, 33, feel good. She was sitting by the Camana Bay harbor with her baby in a stroller next to her. When she came to the island three years ago from Wales, she received an emphatic Caymanian greeting while driving on Shedden Road.
“My first week here, someone ran into the back of me,” she said.
She’s surprised by the number of discourteous drivers she encounters and said she sees a lot of unnecessary speeding.
“Sometimes it’s just downright dangerous,” Ms. Johnson said, “especially as a mom. I don’t think that people necessarily think when they cut you off that you might have a baby in the car.”
Like Mr. Dickson, she sees a wide variety of drivers who seem to all have their own interpretation of the driving laws. While some seem to follow the established rules of the road, others do not.
“There’s this mix,” she said. “I think that’s a problem. Sometimes it’s like the Wild West.”