Once again road accidents have become a common occurrence on our roads with their accompanying fatalities and casualties.
This is a source of pain for families, who lose their loved ones or who have to bear the burden of medical expenses for those who suffer disability from the accidents. In many cases, it is the life of the family’s breadwinner that is snuffed out.
Every year, when the road fatality numbers rack up and the situation spirals out of control, we all cry “something must be done”; this year, however, let us deviate from the norm and assert “something will be done”. It is clear that something very different must be done. This has become a chronic rather than a seasonal problem in The Bahamas.
Speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol and inattentiveness continue to be the main causes of fatal accidents.
The Traffic Division of the RBPF consistently speaks to enforcement being amplified, with emphasis on reducing driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding.
The various government bodies that have remits that affect road safety need to urgently implement a holistic plan of action that addresses the actual causes of road deaths. Various responsible parties need to ensure that our roads are in good condition, that painted lines are visible and that signage is intact and legible.
Then, there is the policing strategy – which is currently focused on roadblocks – this needs to change. Another major cause of accidents is head-on collisions, so it is clear that the crossing of solid white lines needs to be policed, as do tailgating, failing to indicate, overtaking on the inside and the routine flouting of myriad other perfectly sensible laws. This can be achieved only by getting many officers out from behind their desks and into their patrol cars or on their motor bikes.
Additionally, if a drunk driver is able to carry on his or her journey after offering a corrupt officer a bribe, people will die. Given the reality that a percentage of those killed on the roads are pedestrians, laws preventing jaywalking and walking on highways need to be enforced. More infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, such as footbridges and cycle lanes, is urgently needed.
Further, we need to rid the roads of stray animals. At some point in the past, we had a vibrant stray catching programme. Motorists, pedestrians and road users also need to take responsibility for their actions and decisions.
Reducing road deaths is not a short-term project, but it is essential that we get to work immediately. It is time to embrace the complicated and difficult root-and-branch work that needs to be done. Perhaps we could consider the introduction of new traffic regulations to complement the existing rules.
Maybe we can advocate for the introduction of new fines, for example, boarding public transport at non-designated areas, streamlining motorcycle operations, etc; the list is by no means exhaustive. What is evident is that we need to find a solution soon.
The situation on the ground is a clear indication that road safety is not being taken seriously.