September 23, 2021

The Editor Speaks: Reckless driving or are there other factors?

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The Cayman Islands police issued a release yesterday (Tue) saying “four serious accidents this past weekend demonstrate need for more road awareness”.

This was largely in response to the tragic death outside the Owen Roberts Airport last Monday (17) that involved a taxi hitting a pedestrian – a visiting well known doctor who was crossing the road.

In addition to the victim in yesterday’s tragic fatal accident at the airport, this morning there were three other people in hospital from crashes over the weekend, two of whom have serious and potentially life-changing injuries,” said Inspector Ian Yearwood, Head of the RCIPS Traffic Management Unit. “It appears that a lack of attention is a culprit all too often in such incidents, and we cannot stress enough the need for all road users to be conscious of what they are doing and to share the road. These are preventable tragedies.”

One cannot argue with that and it is certainly the major cause. I travel most days between George Town and Bodden Town and every single time going and coming back I marvel at how some of the drivers get away with, quite frankly, murder.

Some are ‘flying’ with no regard to the speed limit and other drivers. Cutting in and out of the traffic, switching lanes, no signalling and half the time approaching night – no lights. And it is not only the speedsters who fail to turn their lights on at dusk. They seem to forget that when the car behind has their lights on, as they should, that is the one you see first. You fail for precious seconds to notice there is a car in front of this one.

It is unfortunately the norm for persons not to signal when they approach a roundabout, especially at the smaller ones. Is it really so much effort to switch your indicator on? And it could save you a smash up if you did inform other drivers you are turning right or left.

Some of the worst speed offenders are trucks. Is it because they are big and weighty the man behind the wheel feels he is invincible if he smashes into another car?

But why the urgency? Where does it get you? You can only speed for a short time on our road system. The logic behind getting past a car that is actually at the designated speed limit approaching the East West Arterial single lane bypass to Newlands at the Chrissie Tomlinson roundabout is beyond my comprehension. Seldom is that speedster going to get very far when he finds himself behind a line of other cars going much slower than he wants.

Then there are the cyclists. During the day isn’t too bad but at night when they pedal away with no lights….

Then there are the drivers that drive right up behind your car leaving just a few feet of distance. Is this a ploy to make you drive faster? It is lost on me. It is downright dangerous!

And yes, there are other factors.

Our poorly lit roads. The awful and inadequate signage, especially at roundabouts. What on earth does the sign (when there is one) there “GIVE WAY” mean? We are supposed to know it means “Give way to traffic coming around the roundabout on the RIGHT”. Traffic signs in UK all say “GIVE WAY TO RIGHT”. How does a visitor, especially from the US know what that GIVE WAY sign means?

There are few (although that has slightly improved recently) signs at roundabouts showing which lane you must be in to make your turn-off. There are few signs actually marked on the roads to indicate what lane you should be on. There are no signs telling you to signal if you are turning off left or right.

And now we have three lane roundabouts…..

How many signs are there warning motorists there is a pedestrian crossing? And why have we different pedestrian crossings? All this adds to confusion.

On The Safe Driving website it lists some of the above under the heading “What causes traffic accidents? I make no apology for publishing it below:

What causes traffic accidents?

There are unsafe factors

Traffic accidents occur for various reasons. While problems with roads or safety facilities lead to some accidents, the majority of traffic accidents are caused by drivers’ failure to abide by regulations, consider pedestrians, and acknowledge dangerous behaviors.

Unsafe road environments

Unsafe road environments refer to external factors uncontrollable by drivers, such as visibility impairment by darkness, slippery surface, insufficient safety facilities, inadequately repaired vehicles, pedestrians or other vehicles that suddenly get in the way.

Insufficient driver knowledge

Traffic accidents are often caused by ignorance. Most driver knowledge is acquired through experience. This is why so many new circumstances lead to accidents. If you know what happens when you speed or suddenly stop under special circumstances including rain, snow or a winding road, you would be careful not to speed or brake suddenly.

Failure to recognize danger

While there are some drivers who slow down upon recognizing potential dangers of certain situations, others do not see any possible peril. These differences in danger recognition stem from experiences and, in particular, different standards. Drivers with stronger desire to arrive at their destination as soon as possible are more likely to take risks.

Improper thinking

There are many types of improper thinking that lead to reckless driving. Such thinking includes believing that it is ok to violate traffic regulations as long as you do not cause accident; rushing to get to your destination even when you are not late; and regarding pedestrians on the road as obstacles.

Wrong driving habits

Many drivers tend to wrongly believe that their undesirable driving habits do not pose any danger just because they have yet to cause traffic accidents. This belief can reinforce such habits and thus leads to fatal accidents.

How to prevent traffic accidents

Many traffic accidents occur because of failed prediction; therefore, you should drive in accordance with common sense so that others can accurately predict your next moves.

Abide by traffic regulations

Everyone expects pedestrians and drivers to comply with traffic regulations. Failure to meet this expectation is the main cause of unsafe driving. Even when other driver violates traffic regulations, you can prevent accidents by meeting that person’s expectation that you will follow traffic rules. In short, abiding by traffic regulations is the most basic preventive measure against traffic accidents.

Avoid sudden moves

It is hard to predict sudden changes in direction or speed, or sudden move of other vehicles. While you can use brakes to signal that you are slowing down, you should avoid sudden braking as it is likely to cause crash. When entering roads, temporarily stop to look around for oncoming traffic.

Do not speed

Accidents often occur even when there is enough inter-vehicle distance, because the speed of the oncoming vehicle is much faster than it appears. Indeed, it is extremely difficult to accurately judge the speed of an oncoming vehicle from a distance. Speeding further compounds this difficulty. Speeding is even more dangerous at night because visibility is reduced and light traffic tempts many other drivers to speed.

Clearly signal your direction

If you turn right without using the turn signal at an intersection not installed with traffic lights, you will be likely to cause traffic accidents. Before turning or changing lane, always signal your intention by using turn signals or hand signals.

Anticipate danger

It is important to anticipate rule-breaking actions by other vehicles or pedestrians. Being prepared for less-than-desirable cases will prove invaluable whether or not they come true.

Take your time

The biggest reason for reckless driving and violating traffic regulations is time. Many risk heavy fines, license suspension, and even traffic accidents just to save a few minutes. Taking time is never a waste of time; it is a rather small price for safety.

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