The other day, on a windy, precarious drive back from the country, I witnessed the following in less than 30 minutes, and I will describe them, but first I must set the scene. This road is windy, narrow and is on the coast, often overlooking steep cliffs. People drive fast, with little regard for the conditions, overtaking whenever and wherever. Pedestrians are always risking their safety by walking on the side of the road; of course, there are no sidewalks. Coaster buses and route taxis stop randomly and goats and dogs roam free. Massive trucks also trundle slowly along, often overloaded with rocks or sand and often with what appear to be wobbly wheels. The road also appears corrupted, as it is deeply ridged and rutted.
So first we were driving behind a large dump truck, which all of a sudden dropped a load of white rocks. They were strewn all over the road and the line of cars following had to swerve to avoid one another and the rocks. (I wonder how much these trucks are inspected and regulated. It does not appear to be too often).
Then, we rounded a corner and saw something horrific: a young man, all dressed up in what might have been church clothes, was lying on the sidewalk, his limbs at awkward angles. He was surrounded by a large crowd (we think he was part of a group of young motorcyclists who had sped by us earlier, most without helmets) and people were yelling and crying and screaming. I have checked the papers, but could not find anything about what happened or if a life was lost, but would not be surprised.
Finally, we were on the boulevard right on the harbour and were re-routed by the police. It seems a tanker truck had overturned. I think it spilled its contents but can’t be sure. I don’t think anyone died, though. Feeling rather grateful, we then made our way up to New Kingston but it was treacherous as the roads were flooded from a downpour. (The drainage system is virtually non-existent.)
It is not easy to get around in Jamaica, whether you are a pedestrian or a driver. Last year, there were over 200 fatalities and although the situation appears to be improving, there are still far too many unnecessary deaths. The National Road Safety Council does some good work educating and advocating, but it seems to be an uphill battle if the government does not invest in some basic infrastructure like sidewalks, or if the police do not improve on enforcement. and I haven’t even touched on the issue of getting around if you are a person with a disability.