It is estimated that more than one million deaths occur each year across the world as a result of road traffic accidents. The World Health Organisation says that road traffic injuries are the tenth leading cause of death globally, and while we here in Barbados have a relatively small population, we are contributing to those statistics, having recorded 27 deaths already for the year.
Without a doubt, this country is recording too many road traffic accidents and indeed too many road fatalities. So far for the year we have recorded 6 550 accidents and as noted 27 deaths from 25 accidents. That’s one less death than was recorded for the entire 12-month period of 2017. In 2017 some 7902 accidents were reported, and with some six weeks left before 2018 comes to a close, we sincerely hope that neither the road fatalities nor the number of accidents increase, especially given that over the last few years we have been seeing double digit fatalities. In 2014 there were 14; 2015, saw 22 road deaths recorded; 2016 saw 10, and last year 28 persons lost their lives.
Now while we often hear about the road fatalities, seldom do we hear the official word on what caused those accidents or, for that matter, any of those resulting in serious injury to persons. So we are left to speculate as to the reasons why so many people are being injured or losing their lives on our nation’s roads. It is certainly disheartening to see local road fatalities continue to trend upwards in the last few years, particularly as the United Nations has designated 2011-2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety. The goal of that designation is to stabilise and then reduce the level of road deaths across the globe by 50 per cent – that is not happening in Barbados and we are just a few short years away from the deadline.
While Barbados is more fortunate than other countries in the Caribbean, which do not record double digit fatalities, but triple digit fatalities, we cannot and must not take solace in that. Having taken the step in the right direction, amending the Road Safety Act after many years of calls to do so, and having that legislation proclaimed, we now want to see all aspects of that legislation being enforced. It was therefore heartening to hear Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Maintenance Mark Cummins, indicating that the authorities are closer to implementing breathalyser testing. According to reports in the media, the Ministry has already identified a breathalyser device that the police are said to be giving consideration to.
But, in the absence of that device being used, it is our belief that a greater police presence is required on our roads to help curb the incidence of reckless, drunk and distracted driving. As we celebrate Road Safety Week starting November 18, we urge everyone to play their part and to make a pledge to drive to stay alive and to drive safely on our roads. Our ultimate goal should be not to record anymore road deaths this year, for we are losing too many of our productive citizens as a result of vehicular accidents.
Added to the loss of life, serious accidents and fatalities are also putting undue burden on our already heavily burdened economy and our health care sector, two more reasons we must, as a country, work together to ensure we bring those numbers down.