Road abusers: the life you save may be your own
We have not had a fatality on Bermuda's roads for 37 days, but that has not been for the want of trying. The number of near misses since Taiwan Smith lost his life on April 11 is ridiculous and should give cause for this island to take proper stock of itself and its approach to road safety and common courtesy — or whether we even can comprehend what that means.
Just in the past fortnight, we have had the story of a young woman who admittedly is lucky to be alive after two passers-by came to her rescue in the wake of an horrific crash on North Shore Road in Pembroke.
Also, a 35-year-old has only just been moved on to a general ward at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, having been upgraded from a critical condition after he crashed in Devonshire a month ago to this day.
Throw in other, unrelated cases of cars and/or bikes crashing into buildings, walls, trees — and mostly in the middle of days undisturbed by the worst of the elements — and you have a clear case of a cultural deficiency. Especially when the majority of these crashes take place on roads that are not remotely challenging, for even the most challenged motorist.
It says something for our worsening habits that the stretch of Middle Road in Devonshire between the junctions with Watlington Road West and Tee Street can be said to be an accident hotspot when the road is virtually straight, save for a mild bend approaching Tee Street.
Yet a woman flipped her car on its side there at about lunchtime on a sunny day in April. How does this happen?
How does another smash her car into a structure on St John's Road near Admiralty House at a similar time of day with nary another vehicle in sight?
In fact, the number of police reports of “single-vehicle collisions” — never mind that the buildings, walls and trees have no say in the outcome, given their almost constant state of inertia — is outrageous.
By strange coincidence at this point in our mounting frustration over how Bermuda residents put the “s” into “selfish” once they take control of a motor vehicle, the Bermuda Police Service again addressed this social concern yesterday with yet another plea to sensitivities.
Inspector Robert Cardwell, the officer in charge of the Roads Policing Unit, trotted out the usual lines but few of those are having the desired effect.
The lunatics who are creating mayhem on our roads do not comprehend the likes of: “We continue to encourage the motoring public to slow down, give your driving and riding your full attention and, whenever socialising, have a plan to get home, reducing the risk you bring on yourself but also other road users.”
Nor do they give a monkey's about: “The collisions occurring on the roads in Bermuda are impacting on the community in many ways and this is a social concern. The negative impacts suffered where life has been lost is on the family through the grief that this causes, but also in the loss of earnings and contribution to the family dynamic and hardship in some cases follow. In addition, serious injury, slight injury and damage collision categories impact on the cost of motor insurance, and the manner of driving or riding in most cases that have resulted in these collisions impacts on feelings of fear suffered by other road users.”
Well-intentioned, though, they may be, the messages are not hitting home — only after the fact for grieving families and loved ones.
Also not having the desired effect is the obviously flawed Project Ride, not when teenagers such as the one in the attendant photograph have little regard for which side of the road to wait on when the traffic light is red.
This is not a case of dark-tinted helmet visors; rather, seriously dark-tinted cells where grey matter should reside.
The Paget stop lights are a disaster waiting to happen, multiple times a day and especially between the hours of 7am and 9am when commuters are heading into Hamilton for work.
This example taken yesterday is but a scant retelling of morning activities in the area; you did not have to wait long — you really didn't. But what cannot be seen, what is out of shot, is the traffic heading west, which when the light for Middle Road turns green must either make way for the bikers who have routinely “slingshot” themselves in front of law-abiding motorists to jump the light or run the risk of serious head-on collisions. The worst-case scenario would involve traffic from South Road on to Middle Road running the red light just as the “slingshot” artists and those heading west on Middle Road get up to full speed — a conflagration of combustibility that has EMT writ large all over it.
This the police know about; we're sure they do. But it is nigh impossible to police unless you staff patrols constantly at that juncture and the many like it around the island, where the habitual impatience of people at traffic lights can be seen around the clock.
What they can do, though, with the assistance of the courts, is hit offenders harder in the pocket. When the economy is in such shape, some might ask? The curt response would be that no one died of starvation while Bermuda was in recession, but people are dying or being seriously maimed on the roads.
As a country, after the countless years of road deaths in double figures in a place with a 20mph speed limit, we are saying this is acceptable.
What the inspector did say that was very obvious but which also made imminent sense was: “Collision investigations continue to show that speed, inattention, impairment and various combinations of these factors are the main causes and frequent factors of collisions in all categories.”
It is not hard to spot people using mobile phones while they are riding on bikes and while they are driving. There is little genuine reason to be looking down into your lap when you are in traffic — static or free-flowing. Yet that is a regular occurrence on our streets, especially in the City of Hamilton, but it is irregular that we find these people in front of the courts.
They get away with it time and again, then one day we find a car on its side on an unpopulated street.
This endemic sickness, a collective immaturity, an ego-driven lack of regard for safety has led to some stunning numbers barely 4½ months into the year: 232 damage-only collisions; 174 slight-injury collisions; 19 serious-injury collisions; four deaths.
Stunning. Truly stunning. And that is only from incidents that have been reported.
A nation that has produced a healthy number of Rhodes Scholars can shamefully quadruple that count with road cullers.
The embarrassment for what our roads have become and for the inability to stem the flow should be acute.
So four fatalities in 2016: Randy Santelices, Ezariah Matthie, Azah Dowling and Taiwan Smith.
Four families still grieving — and we have been lucky that there have not been many, many more.
Not for the want of trying.