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DIANE PHILLIPS: If only road traffic deaths were a little sexier

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Diane Phillips

By DIANE PHILLIPS

Car accidents aren’t sexy news. They don’t compete for headline space with juicy scandal or murder for hire. They don’t hold a candle to an assault and battery charge driven by jealous rage. Oh, now and then when there is a really gory scene or a multiple car and truck pile-up we stare at the photos and wonder how anyone emerged alive. But let’s be honest. Most of us don’t think much about accidents – until we are in one or lose a loved one because of one. In an era of heart-stopping news of drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll, what happens on the roadways barely ticks our tock.

Maybe death by vehicle needs better marketing to get our attention. Pictures of bodies strewn across a road, images of a child’s shoe like those that circulated recently on social media (fake news), twisted torsos being pulled from wrecks, scenes of mourners at their gravesite.

Maybe we need to be shocked into understanding how serious road safety is because the facts that should startle us, don’t.

Here in The Bahamas, at the end of Easter weekend, police reported a total of 20 murders for 2019. By contrast, 22 people died as a result of traffic accidents during the same time period. It was a similar ratio last year.

If traffic fatalities outnumber murders, why are we not demanding more action? When the murder rate rises, we are quick to demand greater police protection as if murder were a police problem rather than a social ill. When traffic fatalities outnumber murders, we sit numbly by demanding nothing new of others or ourselves.

As we mark United Nations global road safety week May 6-12 with this year’s theme ‘Leadership for Road Safety’, this is the ideal time to begin to enforce the legislation that recently passed in the House of Assembly banning cellphone use unless hands-free, the consumption of alcoholic beverages while responsible for a vehicle and other amendments to make our streets safer.

It is time for us to demand solutions where solutions exist. And that is where the great divide between murder and death by vehicle occurs. Until we mend the social fabric of our nation and supplant the desire to join a gang for a sense of belonging or do drugs for a chemically-induced moment of happiness, we will never solve the issue of being a country with a murder rate that is too high.

But we can do something about the death by driver rate. Three successive governments have worked on, sat on and improved upon road safety legislation, likely the biggest spurt of activity coming during the time Frankie Campbell was Minister of Transport. A former police officer, he was driven by the experiences of pulling too many mangled bodies out of vehicles and haunted by what happens to those who don’t die but whose lives will never be whole again.

Contributing to all the discussions and debate was one man, a non-Bahamian who has a lifelong history of race car driving and race event management and more recently, a formal role in the FIA, the governing body of motor sport. He believes the legislation as introduced will reduce accident numbers and save lives. He reminds us that a single second spent glancing down at a phone to check a text or ping even without replying can cost a life. In that one second a car doing 30 mph will travel 44 feet, the length of a jitney bus. If a child emerges from near the front of the bus at just the second the driver behind has glanced away, it could be the last day of that child’s life.

So what are we waiting for? Road safety won’t get any sexier, but improving it will save lives. And by the way, while you were reading this, approximately four children died as a result of traffic accidents, according to the FIA which reports that a child somewhere in the world becomes a traffic fatality every 30 seconds, most often while going to school. Consider this: there are those who set out to murder and then there are those who innocently set out on their day’s journey and through looking down at a cell phone commit the same act, ruining their own life as well as taking another. Imagine having to live with that vision for the rest of your days as you look up from your cell phone and see a child at point blank range and there’s nothing you can do?

Comments

DDK 3 years, 3 months ago

All true and correct. There is also the huge concern of life altering injury, unneeded financial burden, property damage and disruptive power outage caused by downed utility poles! The lack of concern IS deafening!

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