Speed cameras could be on the horizon as police seek to get to grips with bad and dangerous driving on Cayman’s roads.
There were, on average, more than six traffic accidents every day – a total of 2,353 collisions – in 2018. That included eight fatal accidents and 35 others where victims were seriously injured.
Road safety advocates warn those statistics spell out the sorry state of driving standards in the Cayman Islands.
Graham Walker, a driving instructor and author of the ‘Drive Safely in Cayman’ handbook, said it was time for everyone coming to the islands to be required to take a practical driving test before being issued a licence.
“The driving standard on the island is quite honestly dreadful,” he said.
He highlighted speeding, tailgating, failing to use indicators, blinding LED headlights, drunk driving, dangerous overtaking and an inability to use roundabouts as among the problems he sees on the road every day.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has revived its traffic unit and significantly stepped up enforcement over the past year.
More than 2,000 speeding tickets were issued in 2018, more than triple the number of tickets handed out the previous year. The policy is starting to pay off, with the number of collisions down 14% compared with 2017.
But police acknowledge there is more work to be done.
Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said he was also concerned about driving standards and he plans to partner with government, the National Roads Authority and others to formulate a road safety strategy that can run in tandem with increased enforcement from police.
He said traffic enforcement cameras – which can be mounted at the roadside to detect motoring offences, including speeding – could be part of the solution in the long term.
“Those discussions have taken place but there is a lot of work that has to be done,” Byrne said. “It is not an off-the-shelf solution. It is something that requires physical infrastructure and back-office administration. It is a pretty big project.”
He said the National Security Council had asked for a road safety strategy and he was working on that along with other agencies.
He said the solution was about more than just enforcement, and making the roads safer would involve both public education and engineering.
Byrne said there are currently too many collisions on Cayman’s roads.
“When you are looking at a population of 60,000 plus and a vehicle population that we are aware of, of 41,000 plus, there is an awful lot of traffic on the road. We are seeing an awful lot of intemperate habits and some really bad driving,” he said.
International comparative statistics for collisions on a country-by-country basis do not exist.
Bermuda, which has a similar population to the Cayman Islands, and has 47,000 registered vehicles on the roads – a mix of cars, mopeds and motorbikes – had 1,240 collisions in 2017, according to the news site Bernews. That amounts to around half the number of collisions seen in Cayman.
Walker believes the root of Cayman’s problems is 120 different nationalities with different driving backgrounds and experience creating a confusing melting pot on the islands’ roads. He said a mix of left-hand drive and right-hand drive vehicles and different road layouts, including roundabouts – which are not familiar to many – and four-way stops, exacerbate the problem.
He believes closer analysis of accidents may help isolate the root causes.
“I think things are deteriorating at the moment,” he said. “Everybody coming to this island should have to take a practical road test.”
He said drunk driving was still not treated as seriously as in other jurisdictions.
Police booked 328 people for driving under the influence in 2018, up from 253 the previous year.
“There is probably that many people drink driving every night in Cayman,” Walker said.
He believes it will take a concerted campaign to change habits.
“It took 10 years in the UK for people to get used to the idea that if you are drinking, you don’t drive,” he added.