EDITORIAL – Reversing our disturbing increase in traffic accidents

If you are discussing your investment portfolio, a 114 percent increase over two years would be cork-popping news. But when the topic is car crashes, it’s time to hit the brakes and seek answers as to why our roadways are so dangerous and deadly.

The doubling in the number of traffic accidents recorded by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service between 2015 and 2017 is certainly cause for a significant “course correction.”

According to a Compass analysis of crash reports, published in Monday’s newspaper, police reported a total of 2,362 accidents in the Cayman Islands last year. In 2015, police reported “only” 1,102 accidents.

For such small islands, those figures are not only large, but also dangerous and deadly: In three years, 26 people died in car accidents in Cayman, and 85 people were seriously injured.

Of course, not all roads, intersections and junctions are created equal. Accidents tend to cluster around certain “problem areas.” (Many of our readers will probably be able to think of two or three treacherous spots they navigate on their daily commutes.)

For example: Last year, there were 67 accidents on a single quarter-mile stretch of Godfrey Nixon Way (between the Butterfield Roundabout and Eastern Avenue). On adjacent Eastern Avenue in that same year, there were 109 accidents on a strip of asphalt less than a mile in length.

Perhaps the least shocking news that will appear in the pages of the Compass this year is that the Butterfield Roundabout is by far the most “accident-prone intersection” in the country. From 2015-17, there were 71 reported collisions in that roundabout.

In the grander scheme, pound-for-pound and mile-for-mile, Cayman is a far deadlier place to drive than either the United States or Great Britain. (According to 2015 statistics, the most recent available, Cayman’s vehicle death rate was 18.3 per 100,000 people, compared to 10.9 for the U.S. and 3.8 for Great Britain.)

That is somewhat astonishing, given Cayman’s mostly good road conditions, flat and predictable topography, and a maximum speed limit of 50 miles per hour. Excluding those physical, geographic and policy conditions, one variable remains at the forefront: Human behavior.

Police said they do not have a rational explanation for the recent rise in accidents but pointed toward an increase in the number of vehicles on island and the ubiquity of construction projects.

To those factors, we will add a few of our own:

  • Inadequate traffic control: Law enforcement’s lack of consistent enforcement of traffic rules, including of speeding and drunk driving, sends the message that “anything goes” on Cayman’s roads
  • Inconsistent safety standards: Despite rules requiring regular inspections of vehicles, our roads are rife with damaged, malfunctioning or obviously illegal vehicles. (Exhibit A: Cayman’s roving gangs of “menacing motorbikers”)
  • Simple lack of courtesy: We would posit that if Cayman’s drivers dropped their aggressive attitudes and behaved more courteously toward their fellow drivers, crashes in Cayman would drop precipitously, and almost immediately, by at least 20-25 percent.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Here is a rational answer to the problems, put police in cars and stop people from speeding, illegal turns, running red lights. Buy some radar guns, or use speed cameras and put out a show of force. Our policing model is British one. Well the Brits rely on cameras and strict enforcement to curb traffic violations. We do not have the guts to do this! We deserve what we get.

  2. The numbers you quote for country by country comparison are actually even worse. One must also take into account the average miles driven.
    The average mileage driven in the USA is about 12,000 per year. The average driver here does under half of this per year.

    As has often been reported there are hundreds or cars with no tags, tags hidden by opaque plastic and illegal tint. We can walk through any supermarket car park and find them. Why then don’t the police?

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