Tracking Traffic Fatalities; is Road Safety Project a Success?
On Tuesday, we covered a fatal motorcycle collision in the Teakettle area, which claimed the lives of two young men from the village. It is the last of eighty-three fatal incidents reported in 2016, or an average just shy of six per month. While such mishaps have become as much a fact of life as homicides, they are often less explainable. The Belize Road Safety Project was established in 2012 to try to address such incidents along a forty-seven mile stretch of road, the George Price Highway between Belize City and the entrance to the Hummingbird Highway outside of Belmopan. There has been some success, but as the Old Year proved, more still needs to be done. News Five’s Aaron Humes reports from the nation’s capital.
Even one fatality is too many, because of the loss of potential contributions to society. But there is something to cheer at least when it comes to the number of traffic incidents in Belize. They are down slightly from 2015 to 2016, but more dramatically in an area that saw the worst instances of fatalities between 2001 and 2012.
Sandra Miranda, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Belize Road Safety Project
“In 2016, we saw fatalities decrease from eighty-nine in the country to eighty-three as at December thirty-first, 2016. There were eight fatalities on the Corridor – that’s one more than last year, because last year we had seven, so this year we have eight. There are other parts part of the country where you see it increase, like along the Philip Goldson Highway; so it moved from the George Price Highway to the Philip Goldson Highway. Fatalities were the same last year and this year – twenty-one on the Philip Goldson Highway.”
“Now, what in terms of your statistics jumps out to you as the primary causes of these accidents and who are more likely to be involved – pedestrians, or drivers, so on?”
“What sticks out to me from the 2016 statistics – [it] shows that twenty-five of the fatalities were pedestrians. And at different times of the month, you have almost every month; there was at least one pedestrian who was hit fatally.”
The Project, with assistance from Police, found as explained in this graph that the rehabilitation of the George Price Highway from Belize City to Guanacaste Park junction, known as the “Demonstration Corridor,” has cut fatalities from traffic crashes and collisions by at least two thirds in four years. More important, according to Miranda, is the rehabilitation of drivers’ and pedestrians’ habits, which will continue even after the Road Safety Project is wound down in early 2018.
“The road safety features that are on the Demonstration Corridor help a lot, along with the education and awareness campaign that was done along the Corridor for schools and individuals. So a lot of that helped because it changed the behaviour of some of the drivers and pedestrians along that highway. There are road improvements done along the other highways – there is the Philip Goldson Highway, there is the Hummingbird Highway. And they should improve on what the Project has done along the Demonstration Corridor. So you [would do] similar to what has been done, so that we can have very good highways.”
In December, the Project was the recipient of the Prince Michael of Kent International Road Safety Award for its success. But there is no complacency, as while in Belmopan this afternoon we caught sight of planned finishing touches to the roundabout at the entrance of Forest Drive, and rehabilitation of the junction of Forest and Constitution Drives which are highly trafficked. To those who complain about the number of roundabouts on our highways, engineer with project contractors Belize Roadway Construction, Daniel Cano, points to the higher level of sustainability of safety, as opposed to other methods like installing traffic lights.
Daniel Cano, Engineer, Belize Roadway Construction
“It slows the traffic coming from all directions; it puts the traffic into their proper lanes for entering and exiting of the roundabout, so that they don’t cross each other unnecessarily – that is really the end result. In terms of the choice of a roundabout as opposed to other traffic management methods, this particular method of managing traffic is a lot more sustainable, especially in Belize, as opposed to traffic light systems which need a much higher maintenance. And you would notice in other parts of the country, they frequently do not work and lead to chaos in short order. But here, with the roundabout, there is very little works that need to be maintained; the pavement has been made concrete; the lanes will be marked with plastic paint, which should be very durable; and as a result the maintenance cost to the Government will be much less and the operations will last a much longer time.”
But even with all these features in place, the Kriol aphorism still applies when on the road: “Sleep wid yu own eye.” From Belmopan, Aaron Humes reporting, for News Five.
Works continue on the Ring Road where a second roundabout sits and from the entrance of the Hummingbird Highway up to Forest and Constitution Drives, not including the Guanacaste roundabout which was built by RJB Construction. Total cost is seven hundred thousand dollars. The Project itself is funded through the Caribbean Development Bank.