Traffic injuries in The Bahamas are a major safety concern for tourists, the United States’ Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) said in its 2019 Crime and Safety Report.
“Traffic fatalities are a major concern, with a 29 percent overall increase in traffic-related deaths from 2017,” the report said.
The OSAC said that traffic accidents are often due to drivers who are intolerant, reckless and sometimes “antagonistic”.
“Traffic accidents pose a safety hazard in some parts of The Bahamas, primarily due to intolerant drivers speeding and driving recklessly,” the report said.
It added, “Cars have struck tourists who failed to check properly for oncoming traffic; vehicles have struck runners and cyclists.
“Traffic circles (roundabouts) are common, and traffic in the circles has the right of way. Traffic congestion in Nassau is prevalent.
“Drivers occasionally display antagonistic tendencies and drive recklessly, passing on the right into oncoming traffic.
“Many motorists disobey stop signs, speed limits and traffic signals.”
Visitors who opt to rent vehicles were encouraged to drive defensively.
“Exercise caution when renting vehicles,” the report said.
“Travel by scooter or bicycle can be quite hazardous, especially in heavy traffic conditions.
“Those who choose to ride a motorcycle, scooter or bicycle should follow Bahamian helmet laws and drive defensively.
“The embassy continues to see a significant number of serious injuries from accidents in which the operator suffered from alcohol/drug impairment, lack of experience or inattention operator and/or other motorists.”
While the report acknowledged that police have increased enforcement of traffic laws, it said that the quality of police enforcement was not up to U.S. standards.
“Visitors, particularly pedestrians, cyclists and runners, should exercise extreme caution,” the report said.
The report added, “The police can be slow to respond to vehicle accidents.”
Head of the Royal Bahamas Police Force Traffic Division Chief Superintendent Craig Stubbs told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that “well over” 10,000 traffic infractions had been forwarded to the courts so far this year.
He pledged police would step up enforcement of traffic laws, and urged Bahamians to drive more conscientiously.
The report also noted that, although it is illegal, drinking and driving is common in The Bahamas.
“…Police infrequently enforce the ban, resulting in numerous traffic accidents and fatalities, including some involving tourists on foot or on motor scooters,” it said.
Poor planning and maintenance of roads was also cited as a hazard for visitors.
“On many islands, the roads are two-way, poorly illuminated, in need of maintenance and repair and not designed for high-speed travel,” the report said.
“Some major streets do not have adequate shoulders or even passable sidewalks, compelling pedestrians to walk in oncoming traffic.”
The report added, “Roads on the outer Family Islands can be narrow, winding and in poor condition.”
It continued, “Flooding frequently occurs on roads, including in Nassau and Freeport.
“This flooding sometimes makes roadways impassable.”
According to statistics released by the commissioner of police in January, there were 63 traffic accidents recorded in The Bahamas 2018 that resulted in 69 deaths.
Of those deaths, 31 were pedestrians, 20 were drivers, 12 were passengers, three were motorcyclists and three were bicyclists.
The government recently passed amendments to the Road Traffic Act in the House of Assembly that will criminalize the use of cell phones and other electronic communication devices while driving, along with making it illegal to drive with open alcoholic beverages.
Those amendments have yet to be brought into force.