Road Safety in Jamaica -Is it working Part 2
November 7, 2009
Copyright (c) 2009 Michael Ogden
We spent two weeks in Jamaica in January 2004 . We had thought we might hire a car to do some sightseeing. After the drive from the airport we changed our minds. We are, perhaps, critical passengers (what IAM member isn't?) but we are not normally nervous. By the time we arrived at our hotel after a 90 minute drive with what appeared to be a suicidal driver we were somewhat tense. Why?
The road surfaces in Jamaica have to be seen to be believed. There are more pot holes than road surface; the edges of the road are sand and gravel turning to mud very quickly when it rains. As the roads are often only one lane wide vehicles in passing in opposite directions each drive with one set of wheels on the 'verge'.
If a driver wants to overtake he adopts a confrontational position in the middle of the road; the driver in front moves on to the verge - as does the driver of the oncoming vehicle (there always is one!)- the overtaking driver then becomes the sandwich in the middle in a rough road with pot holes.
Animals are seen grazing by the roadside frequently. Cows and goats are let out in the morning to roam and are rounded up in the evening. Goats are more intelligent and swifter than cows and will avoid traffic if they can. Cows get run over regularly. Unfortunately, the value of a cow is less than the cost of removing it from the roadside so owners can rarely be found to take responsibility. Dogs are often allowed to run loose, providing another hazard to the unwary driver. You don't want to know about the kamikaze chickens!
Although some major routes have been improved by widening and resurfacing, this is rare on rural and mountain roads where landslips on the latter have caused the edge of the road to fall away - usually just around a bend with no advance warning signs.
Fines are available for speeding but the average Jamaican does not let that worry him! Jamaicans drive fast, often recklessly so considering the conditions. They are not particularly courteous either and arguments by the side of the road are common. They often creep through red lights or disregard them altogether.
Jamaica drives on the left as we do. They have a saying: the left side is the right side, the right side is suicide.
Despite the above, the Government is keen on road safety and large signs have been erected to encourage better driving. Some slogans we noted included: "Speed kills - don't be in a hurry to enter eternity" "The undertaker loves careless overtakers" "Slow down - save a life" "Good drivers wait their turn at a stop sign - are you one?" "On the road, courtesy helps"
Traffic in rural areas was fairly light but queues could build up quickly where roads were narrow or steep. In towns and cities traffic jams at peak times were horrendous.
It was noticeable that Jamaica is not really geared up for tourist drivers. Place signing was not good and signs to tourist attractions and places of interest were rare.
I think we might play safe and hire a driver and car instead!
Michael is a Distributor with Kleeneze, a UK Multi-Level Marketing Company, promoting household products via a catalogue. If you like travelling the world with someone else paying and doing it safely, please look at our website for further information http://www.vastincome.com
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