A collision between a car and a truck hauling aggregate closed the center of Bodden Town last week for six hours. The accident, along a strip of road near Mostyn’s Gas Station, is emblematic of the ongoing debate about the safety of the narrow road and whether trucks should be using it.
“There’s only one word to describe truck drivers along Bodden Town Road – terrible. I predicted the one that happened [Tuesday] when I came out to cut the hedging in front the shop,” said resident Neville McCoy, the owner of a shop on the street.
“If you are diving on the road doing your little 25 mph, they come through, blowing for you to speed up. I don’t know how we haven’t had a fatal accident just about every day involving those truck drivers,” Mr. McCoy said. “Instead of Bodden Road, it should be the ‘Bodden Town 500,’ just like the big Indianapolis 500 speedway in the United States, that seems to be the limit.”
Mr. McCoy thinks the solution is to have more police surveillance, but he said he seldom sees them, especially not during the times the trucks are passing through the town.
“That little stretch of road between Gun Square and Guard House Hill, it should never have broken road lines for passing; it should have two solid yellow lines. They overtake four and five cars at one time.”
He said the road cannot be widened and Anton Bodden Drive, which bypasses Bodden Town, is inconvenient to truckers because they must stop when they reach the intersection with Shamrock Road to make the right turn to go into George Town.
“I even spoke to Minister Dwayne Seymour during his campaign and to politician Robert Bodden concerning trucks traveling through the area … they even sat on my porch and observed it for themselves,” Mr. McCoy said.
No one was seriously injured in last week’s accident, which led to the road being closed for hours while the heavy-duty truck was removed and the marl that had spilled from it onto the road had to be cleared.
Grand Cayman’s 313 miles of road supports more than 35,838 registered vehicles, 5,867 of which are trucks, according to Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing Department statistics.
In years gone by, Grand Cayman’s single inter-district roadway included the coastal road along the Bodden Town area. It was developed by widening what were essentially donkey trails and walking tracks around homes near the coastline. Government acquired land from owners to create roads wide enough to facilitate two-way vehicular traffic. However, along some stretches of Bodden Town, homes built right alongside the road meant there was no space for widening.
In recent years, negotiations had been under way with developers of the Ironwood project about the funding of a 10-mile extension of the East-West Arterial, from Hirst Road to Frank Sound Road, which would provide the island with a modern roadway to the eastern districts, as well as access to the proposed development. It was suggested this road would be used by truckers.
In March 2018, Minister Joey Hew, who is responsible for the National Roads Authority, told the Legislative Assembly that talks had stalled between government and the developers. He said the government was “considering all funding options for the road,” and that the Ironwood negotiations were on hold.
Concerned residents in Bodden Town are calling on police to address speeding and to ensure that truck drivers cover the backs of their vehicles properly so debris does not spill on other vehicles or pedestrians.
“Some mornings when I am walking, they cross me doing 50 to 60 miles per hour and most of them do not have running or parking lights,” said resident Crosby Solomon.
“It has been a long cry, especially from residents of Bodden Town and other communities as well, around the Bodden Town districts about trucks speeding and using ‘Jake brakes,’” said RCIPS Constable Clifford Garcia, who works out of the Bodden Town station.
A Jake brake is a braking mechanism installed on some diesel engines. When activated, it opens exhaust valves in the cylinders after the compression cycle, releasing the compressed air trapped in the cylinders, and slowing the vehicle.
Constable Garcia said the trucks use these to reduce speed and people are concerned it might lead to a fatal accident because truckers pass through the district at a very high speeds, are often overloaded, and many times they do not have any covering for the material they are carrying.
“Those are some of the concerns that the people have in relations to trucks on the roads,” Officer Garcia said. “Residents would strongly like to see government detour trucks along Anton Bodden bypass instead of passing through the Bodden Town district.”
Truckers claim many of the accidents and near misses that occur are not all their fault, and Cayman has some very bad drivers.
“Motorists often don’t understand how hard it is for truck drivers to slow and stop their rigs as vehicles weave their way through traffic or stop suddenly,” said Ryan Jervis, a 15-year truck driver from Jamaica.
“Cars either jump in front of you [and] just slow down, or cut in front of you as you are coming to a stop when they don’t realize how long it takes you to stop the truck,” Mr. Jervis said. “The trucks are loaded with rocks and dirt, and I can tell you it isn’t easy to just stop.”
He said drivers sometimes pull out from a road or suddenly turn into another, and expect oncoming trucks to just stop.
Mr. Jervis compares driving in Cayman to Jamaica. “In Jamaica, they don’t make it as safe for us truck drivers as they do in the Cayman Islands. I’m used to driving up hills, around corners and through narrow roads; it does not affect me one bit once I get to know the truck.”
“Cayman is like a walk in the park for me,” he added.
Everton Ellis, a 28-year truck driver, sees Bodden Town as one of the most dangerous roads for truckers. “We go through hell with motorists every day. I even installed a webcam in my truck to protect myself,” he said.
Along Bodden Town’s narrow coastal street, houses protrude out into the road and cement fences are close to the street, so “If there is an emergency, there is nowhere to pull off the road,” Mr. Ellis said.
He added, “Another issue is people speeding up when they see a truck trying to overtake; they brake to hold us back and then call police on you. Some even give you the finger.”
One driver who owns his own truck, who asked to remain anonymous, said bus drivers are his worst nightmare, stopping without warning or pulling out regardless of who is behind them.
Another trucker Everton Cole also voiced his complaints and said he wants the public to be better educated about the proper way to drive around trucks, especially on roundabouts.
“I want to warn people around here [that] trucks are nothing to play with. Trucks are dangerous. By the time we swing [the truck], the weight might break the spring, this can end up in a car and kill someone. They blame the truck drivers but sometimes it’s in a difficult area and we cannot help them. It’s worse if [the truck is] loaded.”
Truck drivers the Compass spoke to said the three most common types of accidents involving heavy trucks are crashes caused by a truck’s inability to stop in time; a motorist trying to pass a truck on the right while the truck is making a right-hand turn; and a motorist riding in the trucker’s blind spots.