WHILE I was driving along Carlos Camacho Road in Tamuning the other day, I almost got hit by a speeding car whose driver didn’t care that the speed limit in that area is 25 miles per hour.
I pulled over to gather my composure. The first thing that came to mind was the other half of the two-part series on the road crash report that I had not finished writing at the time. Then I cringed at the thought that, if an accident occurred and I died, the new stories would point out the prophetic irony of my senseless death. “A journalist died in a traffic accident before finishing her special report on road crashes on Guam.”
And then I further cringed at the thought that the Legislature would adopt a resolution asking the Vatican to beatify me as the Patron Saint of Road Safety, or worse a bill titled “The Mar-Vic Cagurangan Drivers Protection Act.” (May I insert “LOL!” here?)
But again, Guam statistics would muffle our chuckles about any OOG traffic jokes. If you’re an outsider looking at figures, you’d think every driver on Guam is a berserk road warrior from Mad Max.
According to the Office of Public Safety, Guam has an average of 6,500 road crashes and 14.6 traffic fatalities a year.
We are all in the danger crossroad, whether we are behind the wheels cussing at the witless drivers or the witless ones texting while driving. It’s survival of the fittest. Those lucky enough to survive a crash often have to pray for more luck and hope emergency-medical service will come.
While it is fashionable and more fun to criticize the government, it wouldn’t be fair not to give it credit for its efforts and corresponding gains – albeit below the targets. Increased sobriety checks, for example, may have contributed to the decline in DUI arrests over the last five years. From 2000 to 2005, DUI arrests averaged 794 a year. This number went down to an annual average of 754 from 2006 to 2010. The annual average for road collisions from 2000 to 2005 was 6,700.
But we can’t make do with small victories in the war on road accidents. The solution to this problem requires a holistic approach instead of doing it on a piecemeal basis such as introducing more bills, some of which are surreptitiously tailored for Asian drivers.
As has been pointed out every now and then, enforcement is an issue. Authorities are dealing with the difficulty of persuading motorists to follow the rules of the road or to take even the most ostensibly sensible safety precautions.
We may not have heard of motorists being arrested and prosecuted for texting or talking on the phone while driving, but – if you’re not one of them – we know and we see them all the time. We’re kidding ourselves. You can’t legislate proper behavior, unless the law comes with brains supplied for free public distribution.
Revoking driver’s licenses of those convicted of traffic violations is not even a likely option. This will only take a toll on people’s productivity. Remember, people have to drive to get to work.
Implementing quick-fix solutions to Guam’s road predicament is akin to giving cough medicine to somebody with Emphysema.
Let’s go to the real problem to which we don’t pay much attention. According to DPW records, there are more than 45,000 licensed drivers operating over 100,000 motorized vehicles on Guam, which has a current population of 154,805. Now if you will include those vehicles still in the dealer shops, Guam would earn the distinction as the island with more cars than people.
Let’s face it, not everyone is born to be behind the wheel. So imagine more new cars and more fledgling drivers out on the road.
The unavailability of a mass transit system on Guam is obviously the root of the problem. Taxis are out of the question. Many people, despite the high level of intoxication, swagger out of a bar and drive themselves home because taxi fares on Guam are akin to highway robbery.
Unfortunately, the come-and-go proposals to build a mass transit system and bicycle lanes on Guam have been boxed into oblivion.
Until those projects actually take off, we just have to live with our road conditions. And die with them.