Making roads safer

We are now commemorating Road Safety Month in Barbados and the Barbados Road Safety Association is making an urgent call for road safety measures to be put in place to help protect motorcyclists when using the roads.

We can no longer sit back, watch and wait for accidents involving motorcycle and non-motorcycle vehicles to stop ,while motorcyclist are continuously killing themselves or being killed on our roads. The number of motor cycle fatalities from 2010 to October 31, 2012 now totals 15 deaths. That is, 23 per cent of our 66 road fatalities for this period are motorcyclists (all males), with five motorcycle deaths occurring so far for the year.

Closer attention must be paid to this group of vulnerable road users. Legislation making it mandatory for all motorcycle riders to use running light during daylight hours can help, and should be put in place as a matter of urgency. This measure, along with formal safety education for motorcyclists and improved training, is required.

Using daylight running lights essentially involves the cyclist burning the headlights at all times, day or night, in order to enhance their visibility. It is a road safety measure that is use in many countries internationally and has proven to improve visibility of motorcyclists and reduce accidents in these locations.

A big part of the problem is drivers not seeing motorcyclists until it is too late or until the impact is felt. Motorcycles do not have the mass or size of a car, which makes them essentially invisible in many cases to drivers. Many drivers do not look or are not seeing cyclists. They are conditioned to look for cars and larger vehicles and motorcycles and bicycles are not on their radar so to speak. Many near misses occur because of this inefficiency.

Motorcyclists too have families who love and need them and the protection of this vulnerable group must outweigh their indiscretions. Motorcyclists also need to understand their disadvantages in traffic, particularly their vulnerability, and desist from taking unnecessary risks.

They must avoid travelling in the blind spot of other motorists, travel at safe speeds and always expect drivers to do the unexpected. They should only wear helmets that offer maximum protection and ride defensively — as if their lives depends on it, because they do.

We also have car drivers posing a danger by speeding, driving distracted and under the influence of alcohol; and drugs but there are many road safety measures to protect them.

Riding with headlights on will not allow motorcycles to see better during daylight hours; however they will dramatically increase the cyclists’ visibility to others. This measure, along with extensive education for drivers on the need to scan the road more vigilantly for cyclists, particularly their blind spots, and to anticipate the cyclists’ actions will not only allow motorists to share the road with cyclist more effectively, but will help improve the safety of cyclists and lead to a reduction in accidents.

Inspector Ronald Stanford of the Traffic Division of the Royal Barbados Police Force agrees that the concept of increased visibility for motorcyclists, which will make them more conspicuous in traffic, can help save lives.

He said: “I believe safety should be paramount and efforts to educate both motorcyclists and drivers to motorcycle safety and sharing the road, along with increased enforcement efforts to get wayward cyclists off our streets, will go a long way to the overall improvement of safety for some of our vulnerable road users and the public as a whole.

“We are aware that some motorcyclists take part in disturbing and dangerous behaviours of stunt riding on our roads, but not all motorcyclists engage in these activities. The Traffic Department of the RBPF is working assiduously to put an end to these dangerous practices.”

The month of November is Road Safety Month in Barbados and much of the focus of the BRSA will be motorcycle safety awareness with the aim of sensitising drivers of the need to share the road with vulnerable road users and making cyclists aware of the many dangers they face in traffic and how to deal with such situations.

* Sharmane Roland Bowen is president of the Barbados Road Safety Association.

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