Road fatalities fall by 50%
(CNS): The number of people killed on the roads in Cayman this year has fallen by 50% when compared to last year, the latest statistics from the RCIPS have revealed. In the first six months of 2011 six people had already lost their lives in a year which would see ten fatal victims of traffic smashes. Alongside the fall in road deaths in the first half of the year, police also report that accidents overall have declined by 21%. However traffic offences have fallen by only 2% and the number of people arrested for drunk driving (DUI) has increased by 9%, despite the warnings by police.
The RCIPS has been clamping down on traffic offences in an effort to reduce the number of accidents but DUI continues to be a serious problem on the local roads. A senior police officer recently stated that drivers do not take the issue of drinking and driving seriously and many appear not to believe it is a crime.
Acting Superintendent Angelique Howell has said the disregard by drivers, despite persistent campaigns and warnings from police, demonstrates that drinking and driving is endemic on the Islands and is not seen by many as breaking the law.
“Unfortunately so many people seem to drink and drive so often that they do not actually believe that they are doing anything wrong – it’s a way of life for them,” she said. “But every time they have a drink then get behind the wheel of a car they are gambling with their own lives and the lives of other road users. I don’t know how many times we have to say that, and in how many different ways, before the message finally starts to get through,” Howell added.
The drink driving limit in the Cayman Islands is already higher in comparison to North America and Europe. In Cayman drivers are permitted to have 100mg of alcohol in their blood before they are considered to be legally incapable of driving compared to 80mg in the UK, most of the US and Canada and 50mg in European countries.
On Monday the education minister pleaded not guilty to DUI charges after he was arrested in May following a road smash on the West Bay Road in the early hours of the morning. According to police, Rolston Anglin was over the limit after he was found to have 110mgs of alcohol in his blood.
A Grand Court judge recently recommended that the level be reduced following a conviction in a fatal drunk-driving case in June this year. Passing sentence on Patrick Brooks-Dixon, who killed Dr Richard Martin in a road smash last November when he had 173mgs of alcohol in his blood, the judge pointed to the high number of road crashes in Cayman as a result of drunking and driving.
“I mention the international levels due to the prevalence of accidents caused on the road in which a driver has been drinking. It may be that the time has come for consideration to be given to reviewing the levels having regard to the scientific evidence as to the effects of alcohol on a driver over 50mg,” Justice Williams said.
The RCIPS have offered their support for the judge’s position to lower the legal alcohol limit. “Any steps that can be taken to reduce road crash injuries and fatalities on our roads must be explored. We have said time and time again that drink driving is endemic on these Islands, and unfortunately, despite the numbers of deaths and injuries on our roads, people still continue to drink then get behind the wheel of their vehicles, endangering themselves and innocent road users. It's clear that we need much tighter legislation to help us make the roads of Cayman safer for all," a police spokesperson stated this summer.
Although the judge’s call has received public support on CNS, people remained concerned about the lack of an alternative to the private car. Commenters said that drivers are getting in their cars after drinking alcohol because taxis are too expensive and there is no public transport at all after dark.
So far this year 109 people have been charged with DUI compared to 100 over the first six months of 2011. The worst month was January when 22 people were arrested -- a 57% increase on January 2011.
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