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Carelessness on roads has a cost

Barbados Nation

Carelessness on roads  has a cost

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Last week highway authorities in Jamaica reported they now project that by the end of 2014, more than 300 lives would have been lost as a result of traffic accidents there. Our size when compared with Jamaica’s notwithstanding, there are many here who would stand and cheer at the fact that it is very likely that by the end of the year fewer than two dozen people would have been killed on our roads.

However, while it may sound like a cliché, it would be fair to say on the one hand that that would be two dozen too many, and on the other that we should all give God thanks the number is not larger, given our almost national disregard for traffic rules – and even the rules of common sense.

At the same time, Barbadians who pay attention to trends would probably be inclined to warn us that on the current trajectory, many more families are likely to be forced to cry out in pain for the loss of their loved one. That’s because public displays of lawlessness and stupidity on the roads appear to be coming from an even younger set of Barbadians, while at the same time it appears that an increasing number of “adults” are taking significantly longer to grow up.

Just pay a little attention to those who ride around “Ninja”-type bikes on Sunday afternoons. There is ample evidence to suggest that many of those “pulling wheelies” and other dangerous stunts have long passed their teens and 20s.

Many of them by now should have “grown up” and be in a position to offer sound advice and direction to the youth, but instead they engage in conduct that forces the hierarchy of the Royal Barbados Police Force to deploy scarce resources to try to keep them in check.

In the midst of all this we have to ask ourselves whether there is not a connection between the teenagers who stand at the side of the road and cheer on these fools with their expensive toys, and the youngsters who subject themselves to immense danger while “wheelying” in and out of thick traffic in a dumb attempt to attract attention to themselves.

By virtue of our history and development, compounded by the current strained economic times, our roads can be quite dangerous without adding recklessness to the equation.

We still have lots of junctions that offer extremely limited visibility, roads that were developed from cane tracks with every corner still intact, undulating surfaces that give the impression the road ahead is clear when oncoming traffic is just metres away but hidden below some rise in the road, and traffic lanes accommodating vehicles going in both directions, but barely large enough to hold one.

On top of that we now have an island covered in bush, narrowing the tarmac available to drivers and pedestrians, and hiding dangerous rock outcropping. The last thing our society needs at this time is idiocy by motorcyclists, bicyclists and other motorists added to this mixture.

And our society needs to accept that while the police have a role to play in solving this problem, it is not theirs alone. Parents need to let their sons know that they frown on this behaviour and to tell their daughters that they contribute to the problem when by their conduct, they glamorise such foolishness.

We need to collectively count the cost not just in relation to the lives lost, but the financial and emotional price paid as a result of the large number who don’t die, but who strain national resources as we all contribute to nursing them back to good health.