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THE SPATE OF, and the spike in, vehicular accidents on our roads must be worrisome to even the casual observer. We have already surpassed the number of fatalities so far this year than what we recorded for all of 2016. More worrisome is the number of traffic accidents with injuries which are now occurring on a daily basis.
Even without any statistical evidence, the blame cannot be placed purely on the increase in traffic, the roundabouts which some drivers don’t understand or even the poor lighting at night on some thoroughfares. That would be a simplistic argument.
What is needed is detailed research into why there has been this rise in accidents which would involve the Royal Barbados Police Force and the General Insurance Association of Barbados taking the lead, with input from a non-profit organisation such as the Barbados Road Safety Association, as well as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
Certainly the QEH must keep statistics which can inform the type and level of injuries its trauma specialists encounter following vehicular accidents. We see these ranging from head to spinal to abdominal injuries. It is established that such injuries can lead to psychological and physiological problems. The victims’ lives can be so disrupted that those already in the workforce are often forced to rely on the NIS.
The desire to glean better outcomes of the root causes for the spike in vehicular accidents will also require exhaustive investigation by the police to determine fault, while insurers need to know where the liability rests.
What is obvious even, without getting such empirical data, is that there are issues which need to be addressed urgently. These include distractions such as cellphones, adherence to the speed limit, driving with greater care and attention after a light drizzle, and effective enforcement of road traffic regulations related to roadworthy vehicles.
Appealing to common sense and moral suasion to get drivers to do the right thing clearly is not working. By simple observation, we can see how many more drivers are increasingly dividing their attention between their mobile phones and the road. Unfortunately, the data simply isn’t available to state specifically how many accidents are caused by this type of distracted driving.
Neither can our authorities state precisely how many accidents are as a result of drivers under the influence of alcohol and illegal substances. This is why the long-talked-about breathalyser testing needs to be introduced.
In the circumstances, we must not throw our hands up in frustration. The use of technology may be a good solution to track those breaking the speed limit, ignoring traffic lights and driving without registered vehicles, amongst the many issues. This is why Minister of Transport Michael Lashley must no longer simply outline plans. It is time he delivers with firm action.