The ease of travelling from one point to another is one of the benefits that the use of motorised vehicles: cars, motor cycles and trucks has complimented modern life. The length of time of travelling particularly, long distance within Dominica has been considerably lessened. Our road networks for a long time, though made road travel longer than necessary and is still to some extent hazardous. But when these amazing machines take the lives of our loved ones in horrific accidents, it begs the question, are we making the best use of this technology.
I learned to drive in the United Kingdom four years ago at the ripe age of 45 and to date have clocked up 15, 500 miles. My longest journey has been to 243 miles to Yorkshire from Sussex which is a 4-hour drive along motor ways and A roads. I consider myself to be safe driver, mainly because of the excellent tuition I received during my student driving period which included comprehensive theory and practical lessons, and a rigours examination which includes a hazard perception test, multiple choice theory test and a 40-minute road driving examination from which you had to score no more that 9 out of 15 mistakes; and no serious mistakes that could endanger other road users or yourself.
Commission for Global Road Safety
The spate of serious accidents and fatalities on our streets and roads in Dominica is of great concern to me having lived in Dominica from the 70 through to 2004, the authorities and indeed to the Commission for Global Road Safety who under the auspicious of the United Nations on May 1, 2011 launched a ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety from 2011 – 2020 with the aim of stabilising and then reducing global road deaths by 2020. 100 countries. Have pledged to the cause. According to the commission 1 million lose their lives to road accidents worldwide, while 15 million injuries have been recorded. The cost to national economies is between 1- 3 percent of the gross national product. Statistics from the Ministry of Health in Dominica reveal that between 2000 and 2009 vehicular accidents were leading cause of death among persons aged 15 to 24. Road-related accidents placed 2nd in deaths among persons aged 25 to 44. In addition, the report revealed that the the majority of these deaths involved 4-wheeled vehicles, a quarter of which involved motor cycles and 1/5 involving pedestrians.
The Commission for Global Road Safety has devised a five-point plan to deal with this very serious problem: (1) Road safety management; (2) Safer roads and mobility (3) Safer vehicles; (4) Safer road users and (5) Post crash response. The Dominica Transport Board, is the advisor to government is surely looking at ways to increase road safety.
One of the measures that could increase road safety in Dominica would be to ensure that driving instructors are accredited to modern driving standards. Learning of the high way code is basic and fundamental for driving courtesy. Another measure is the deciding of appropriate speed limits. A suggestions would be 20 miles-per- hour (mph) through villages through which run a major road. 50 mph on open roads and a reduction in roads with bends and dangerous cliffs. Again, school and passenger buses should be checked with a speed appropriate to the conditions.
Drivers need to be aware of road hazards such a wet surfaces during rain, and to some extent wind during storms. The use of mobile phones and eating and drinking while driving should be discouraged. The drivers’ hands should be at all times on the steering wheel and elbows should not be hanging out of the window. Regular checks of your car’s vital functions: do your tyres have sufficient tread; are your headlamps, brake and indicator lights working. Do you regularly check your rear view mirrors while driving or over-taking turning a corner.
How well do you anticipate the actions of the driver in front? Do you, tailgate: drive so close to the driver in front? Do you look through windows, under and over parked vehicles to see if a driver is pulling our from a parked position or to notice whether a pedestrian is stepping out onto the road without looking? Do you use 2nd gear to make a turning and at the right speed? Do you even check all around you before you even pull out from a parked position?
Do you plan your journey to arrive early to avoid congestion in the city? Simple thoughts like wearing seatbelts, wearing a crash helmet, having your vehicle checked at least once a year by a qualified mechanic and observing acceptable best practices on the road, can go a long way in helping to make Dominica’s roads safer for all. I think that we all should do our bit to save lives.