Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Road crash - up close and personal

Jean Lowrie-Chin | Observer column | Monday, February 14, 2011

Two Saturdays ago, my friend Jan was driving us in her SUV on Shortwood Road, when suddenly a car emerged from an apartment complex directly in front of us. Jan swerved to avoid the vehicle, but its bumper connected with the front tyre on my side, puncturing it, sending us into a spin, and then "bang!" head-on into a high wall.

It is no picnic to see in slowmotion a wall coming at you, to feel that sickening impact, the crunch of metal, the cracking of the windshield, though thankfully it did not shatter. I felt an excruciating pain in my chest and froze in fear while Jan emerged from the vehicle shaking like a leaf. Neither of us could see properly as our glasses had flown off our faces.

I heard a voice saying to her, "Don't worry, I will stay with you until help comes." The Good Samaritan had stopped to check on two strangers out of pure kindness. It was Rebecca Tulloch Issa who rushed over to my side, opened the door and tried to help me out. Only then did she recognise me. I was afraid to move but she pointed out that there was smoke coming from a vent. She sped me off to the hospital, promising to return to my friend. What a compassionate young woman!

We are now both at home recovering, thanks to the staff at Andrews Memorial, the extraordinary Dr Lucien Jones, convener of the National Road Safety Council , and his distinguished colleagues. We have not been able to go to work all of last week, have been spending time at the doctor, in therapy, giving reports to the police and the insurance company. I was lucky to have just two cracked ribs and my friend no serious injury, though lots of aches. The driver of the other vehicle accepted liability after the police arrived on the scene and convinced her that she was unquestionably at fault.

If my friend Jan had not obeyed the speed limit, if we had not been wearing our seat belts, I probably would not be writing this column today. The advice that you have to drive not only for yourself, but for the other person, should be taken very seriously. Jan and I have been asking each other, "What the heck was the woman doing? Was she on the phone? Was she searching for something in her car?" We are totally mystified because it was 9 am on a sunny morning and we were in a very visible white vehicle. Bystanders expressed the same bewilderment. The driver of the sedan looked like a responsible, middle-aged person.

We welcome a Motion moved by Central Kingston MP Ronald Thwaites last week, "seeking amendments to the Road Traffic Act, to prescribe mandatory re-education of traffic offenders and obligatory re-certification of licensees, at 15-year intervals", according to a JIS release. We are heartened by the response from Prime Minister Bruce Golding, the committed chairman of the NRSC, that there will be "significant changes" to the Road Traffic Act. JIS reported that areas being looked at include: "expanding the network of closed-circuit surveillance cameras at critical points and enactment of legislation to curtail the use of cellphones by persons while driving".

Pedestrian safety needs special attention. This was the only category to show increased road fatalities last year. We had always been concerned about the lack of sidewalks on Negril's West End main road, now renamed "One Love Boulevard", and are sad to learn that a pedestrian was killed by a speeding vehicle recently. The busy Trafalgar Road-Hope Road intersection shows not a shred of respect for pedestrians - among the many phases of traffic signals, there is not one that allows for safe crossing and no pedestrian crossing.

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