Whether you are a local or tourist in Barbados, it is important that you are aware of certain aspects of the road safety in Barbados, as well as certain precautions that need to be taken while driving or walking. Road Safety in Barbados has risen to the forefront of policymakers in the country, as the island averages roughly 28 road fatalities yearly, an amount far too many for a small country. This high statistic prompted Barbados, in late 2011, to sign up for the Decade of Road Safety (2011-2020) initiative, proposed by the United Nations, in an effort to improve road safety in the island. Some aspects of this project are the creation of speed humps to reduce the instances of speeding on the roads, and ensuring that roads are constructed and repaired efficiently and in a timely manner. Therefore, this article aims at providing tips on road safety in Barbados for both drivers and pedestrians.
- Streets become very slippery when it rains in Barbados, so care must be taken when driving on wet roads.
- Potholes are very prevalent on some country roads in Barbados, so extra care and focus must be taken when driving. Some roads in the country are also very narrow.
- Of importance to those tourists who are usually accustomed to driving on the right hand side, motorists in Barbados drive on the left hand side of the road.
- Both the drivers and passengers must wear seatbelts when travelling in a vehicle, while children under the age of 5 must use a child seat.
- Driving while intoxicated with alcohol or illegal substances is prohibited and punishable by law. These substances severely impair brain functioning and thus inhibits a driver’s ability to drive carefully and focus on their task at hand.
- It is also prohibited to use a cell phone while driving, unless this is a Bluetooth/hands free device. Motorists are advised to pull off to the side of the road if they need to make a call urgently.
- Driving at roundabouts can be tricky for both locals and tourists. It is important to follow the road markings indicating where each lane will take you and follow these signs correctly.
- At roundabouts and specific junctions with the appropriate signage, always give way to vehicles on your right.
- All motorists must carry their driver’s license when driving on the road. For tourists, you must have your driver’s license issued in your home country, an international driving permit, insurance documents and very importantly, a road map to help you navigate the roads of Barbados.
- The speed limit for city areas is 40 km/h; for rural areas it is 60 km/h and mall major highways the limit stands at 80 km/h. It is important that these limits are adhered to.
- Always ensure that you park in well lit areas and take care not to leave anything valuable inside of the car, when leaving it unattended.
- All gas stations are open 24 hrs daily
- When driving behind cyclists it is important to be very careful. Never force past them when trying to overtake and leave at least half a car’s width between you and them.
- High volumes of traffic are usually on the roads between the time periods 7am to 8:30am and 4:30pm to 5:30 pm. Drive carefully when in traffic and never seek to force an issue.
- Please note that the minimum age for visitors to rent a car in Barbados is 21 and you MUST have at least 2 – 5 years of driving experience. Additionally, for those over 70 years of age, it is mandatory to have a medical certificate.
- Do NOT overtake other vehicles if it is not safe to do so.
- Do NOT drive too close behind other vehicles.
With all of these tips in mind, one very important tip is for drivers to drive “defensively”. Defensive driving has been seen as a key aspect of road safety and involves anticipating actions by other drivers, being focused behind the wheel (reducing cell phone usage and not being easily distracted by other passengers), reducing speed while driving and leaving enough space between vehicles using the “two second rule”. By anticipating the actions of other drivers, you are therefore “expecting the unexpected”. This creates room for error and subsequently reduces the likelihood of accidents occurring. These points were highlighted by the former president of the Barbados Road Safety Association (BRSA), Sharmane Rolan-Bowen, during an address to workers and drivers of the Barbados Light and Power Authority in April 2012. She noted that by 2012, it was found that approximately 85% of road accidents are caused by drivers who are either distracted or not paying enough attention on the road, 10% due to the conditions of the road and 10% caused by vehicular failure.
- Use sidewalks when they are available and avoid walking on the edge of the road.
- Always walk facing oncoming traffic.
- Very importantly, always use pedestrian crosses when available. These are indicated by stripes of white running vertically from the left to the right of the road. If there are none available, cross where you have a clear view of oncoming vehicles from both sides of the road.
- NEVER cross the road at bends or corners, as neither you nor drivers can see what is on the other side of a bend/corner.
- Do not attempt to cross in front of or behind a vehicle you have just disembarked without checking to see whether it is safe.
- At traffic lights, always pay attention and follow the pedestrian lights indicating when to cross and when to stop.
- Do NOT wear dark colours at night. Wear light coloured clothing to make it easier for motorists to see you when it is dark.
- Avoid crossing between parked vehicles.
- Only cross on the pedestrian crossing when vehicles from both sides of the road have come to a stop.
- Please note that if you have no intention of crossing the street, do not stand close to pedestrian crossings.
- Look both directions of the street before attempting to cross.
- You can also indicate to drivers of your intention to cross by raising your hand.
These tips for both drivers and pedestrians may seem basic and unnecessary. However, every day it is proven that doing the basics correctly reduces the occurrence of accidents and saves lives in the process. Remember only 20% of all vehicular accidents in Barbados are caused by the vehicle malfunctioning and the conditions on the road. The large percentage of accidents in this country is due to human errors and inattentiveness. So please take time to adhere to the tips presented in this article because doing so can save a life.
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