The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, based in the United Kingdom, has explored the “why” of road accidents. The
Society notes that most road accidents have several causes; the main ones being human error, environmental problems and mechanical faults.
Human error, the Society suggests, is a factor in 95 per cent of all road accidents and it can take many forms. The Society points out that alcohol can have a devastating effect on driving ability, adding that it is the biggest single factor in road deaths, especially among young people. The Society also cites factors such as inexperience, leading to errors of judgement, especially driving too fast; tiredness/illness which reduces a road user’s ability to cope with road conditions and situations; as well as impatience, stress, carelessness, negligence, absentmindedness, irresponsible behaviour, inadequate knowledge and training, ageing, drugs and medicines and a general disregard for personal health and safety, that go with human error. The Society also makes mention of environmental problems (weather conditions, road and junction design, and road surfaces) as a factor in around 18 per cent of road accidents, while mechanical faults are a factor in 5.5 per cent of road accidents.
While the data comes from the UK, it certainly provides food for thought, for us here in Barbados. In Barbados and in the Caribbean, we are in need of greater research and information about what causes major road accidents. If we had such data, and credible data that is current, we could certainly work to avoid these accidents, by sharing the information and by taking proactive steps to mitigate against such.
It would be interesting to note how cell phone use factors into the equation. We are also well aware that one split second of distracted driving can lead to a major road accident or a fatality. In 2017, the number of reports about serious accidents and fatalities were startling. And now in 2018, we are already hearing of an accident here and an accident there and by all reports, these are not simply fender benders. Overall, the frequency of these serious accidents, which seems to grow from year to year, is certainly cause for concern. While we are certain that an accident can happen at any time, as there is an unguarded moment for everyone, without a doubt, we could save more lives, if active steps are taken to avoid major road accidents.
It may be time for those responsible for road safety in Barbados, to gather some data for us, so as to ascertain the causes of many of these accidents and subsequently follow up with a sensitisation campaign, that we can draw from. Given that frequent road accidents are also taking their toll on the emergency services personnel and our health care system, as well as on members of the Royal Barbados Police Force who have to be summoned each and every time a serious accident occurs, we must act swiftly in ensuring that members of the public are made more aware of what they can do or not do, to avoid a major accident.
That said, the onus is on each and every road user, whether a motorist or pedestrian, to take steps to become much more educated about road safety and defensive driving skills. We cannot afford to lose one more citizen or even one more visitor on our roads, in 2018. The time to take action is now.