EDITORIAL – Rules of the road: Taming Cayman’s asphalt jungle

Police will be increasing the number of traffic stops they make from Friday through the holidays in an effort to curb drunk-driving incidents. – PHOTO: RCIPS

During the month of March, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service issued 341 tickets for speeding as part of a “crackdown” on traffic offenses. That averages out to 11 speeding tickets per day, or about one ticket every two hours.

If those figures represented the work product of a single on-duty officer, they might be considered impressive. But for a uniformed force of 390 active officers and auxiliary constables over six districts, the numbers are absolutely anemic.

As anyone with a passing familiarity with Linford Pierson and Esterley Tibbetts highways (where much of the enforcement operation was concentrated) could tell you, it would not be unreasonable to expect police to be able to issue citations to more than 341 speeders per day.

Double or triple that if you throw in other obvious offenses, such as illegally tinted windows, failure to wear seat belts, burned out brake lights, etc. (It’s like “Tasering” fish in a barrel.)

The unlucky few who “got caught” were not barely creeping over posted speed limits. According to police, most of the tickets were issued to drivers barreling through 40-mph zones at speeds in excess of 60 mph, with some offenders doing 70 or even 80 mph.

Cayman, we would remind our populace (and our police), is not the German Autobahn or Circuit de Monaco. Most of our roads are old, narrow, overcrowded and dangerously “diverse” (cars, trucks, bicycles, pedestrians, baby strollers and on and on – a too-often lethal vehicular cocktail).

Putting a stop to the “Mad Max” mentality on Cayman’s roads is literally a matter of life and death. But that’s not the only reason compelling police to “take back” our streets.

Traffic enforcement is a singular police activity that captures the attention of the public. In an automobile-centric society such as Cayman, it is the most visible and universal demonstration of police authority. The police force’s unwillingness or inability to maintain “law and order” on our roads sends the message that brazenly breaking the law carries no meaningful consequences.

Neglecting the straightforward duty to enforce traffic laws breeds a dangerous lack of respect for police and undermines the essential concept of law and order.

Question: Do our authorities not notice what virtually every driver encounters every day on our roadways, namely a bumper crop of expired coupons, illegible license plates, illegal window tinting, burned-out taillights, smoke-spewing rust buckets, mobile phone-using drivers, dangerously overloaded trucks and, of course, gangs of dirt-biking Evel Knievels raising terror on two wheels?

Of course, the burden of keeping our roads safe does not fall exclusively on the shoulders of police. At the most fundamental level are the motorists themselves. Then there is the performance of the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing, which bears responsibility for, among other things, the country’s fleet of obviously out-of-code vehicles that somehow have up-to-date registration and inspection permits.

Further, factor in the judicial bumper-to-bumper in Cayman’s Traffic Court, and it is clear that the “bad behavior” on Cayman’s roads is linked to dysfunction and disorder at multiple levels.

The infractions we cite, if they are not taken seriously and addressed robustly, will eventually erode Cayman’s reputation as a law-abiding society.

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