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On Wednesday, March 5, the Royal St. Kitts-Nevis Police investigated an accident that involved a collision between two passenger buses that resulted in 20 people being taken to the hospital for treatment. No one was killed and no one was seriously injured, according to authorities.

While that is certainly cause for thanks – the fact that the accident wasn’t a lot worse – it does nothing to take away from the astonishing number of road related deaths recorded in the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis so far in 2008 – seven.

In Nevis, a person has died on the road in each of the last three full months: December 2007, January 2008 and February 2008.

Mr. Lester Blackett, Director of the Nevis Disaster Management Department, convened a seminar this week to discuss the situation. He invited members of many departments who are associated with safety. They reviewed numerous aspects of the problem including traffic flow, seat belt use, child safety seat use, passing, pedestrian crossing design, drunk driving, use of cell phones while driving, and improving the 911 emergency system.

The group is sending recommendations to the cabinet for consideration. Some the actions can be done on Nevis alone, some would require federal approval.

The participants at the meeting also discussed the need for greater public awareness and education about road safety.

In the end, that will be those will be the key to ending this scourge of road accidents – greater public awareness and education about road safety.

Studies around the world show that excessive speed and driving under the influence of alcohol are the most common factors in fatal and serious road wrecks. Continuous and comprehensive law enforcement, backed by stiff court sentences, can discourage many drivers from driving too fast or driving after having too much to drink. However, all the police and all the judges cannot take the place of a driving public that learns to put a premium on their own safety and the safety of others.

What can the public do right now? Here are a few suggestions:

Regardless of the speed limit, how fast is it really necessary to go someplace to take care of everyday business? Possibly not as fast as you drive now, so slow down. If you have a long way to travel, it makes sense to leave earlier than you might have planned and drive at a prudent speed.

Wear a seat belt and make sure the other people in your car do, too.

If a cell phone rings while driving, pull over to answer it or just call back the other party when stopped.

If walking at night, wear bright clothes and stay as far off the driving surface as possible.

These are just a few ideas, but underneath it all there has to be a firm commitment, from each individual who uses the roads, to do all they can to insure the safety of themselves and others. It must be choice of prudent thinking and prudent actions over unsafe habits that cause unnecessary suffering and death. Government actions can improve roads and punish irresponsible drivers, yet the end result will be in the hands of all of us.

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