This space would have dealt with the harsh lessons from last Saturday’s tragic accident at Agricola, which left seven-year-old Ciara Benjamin dead. The shock and pain for the parents will linger even though time may offer some respite. In the aftermath of that accident, serious questions about safety of the roadways, their usage, managing such situations to reduce traffic congestion, and the security of commuters abound.
Much has been said about the extremely lengthy delays commuters are forced to endure along the East Bank corridor whenever the flow of traffic comes to a halt for whatever reason. Yes, there is a continual increase in the number of vehicles on the roadways; and yes, unavoidably, there will be traffic buildups.
However, an effective and swift response to situations such as that accident, to ensure timely flow of traffic, leaves much to be desired. With four lanes, there is an expectation for urgency and innovation to be employed by the Police for traffic to move at an acceptable, reduced pace within a reasonable timeframe.
The reality is that commuters — inclusive of the elderly, children and the weary — spend hours at a standstill. Risks are also exacerbated, especially along that particular section of the main road. There are allegations that some who were stuck in the inevitable traffic jam last Saturday were robbed. In the past, there have been many such robberies of unsuspecting commuters in that vicinity.
A few years ago, protestors blocked that roadway, forcing Police to take action. With thousands trapped on both sides, many were beaten and robbed, and forced to walk miles to get home as hour upon hour passed with no chance of vehicles moving. There are also reports of minibuses being robbed whilst stopping for passengers to disembark, with some victims having been shot. Recently, a young race car driver was such a victim, and lost a part of his ear in the process.
It makes for serious concern the fact that, between the Houston bypass and the northern side of Eccles, there is no alternative route to get either to the City or further up the East Bank. It means that people caught in traffic there are not only trapped, but are also exposed to being robbed while desperately hoping the Police would be able to vastly reduce the waiting time.
Cleary, the Police cannot be oblivious of those scenarios. It therefore begs the question as to why, in such circumstances, isn’t there effective protection provided along that stretch, or any other with potential risks in circumstances of lengthy delays? Many are flabbergasted that what appears to be a simple action to implement seems not part of the operating procedures.
In fairness to the Police, and as was evident last Saturday, armed ranks were present after some time. That’s not the issue; armed ranks also need to simultaneously take up strategic positions along the main roadway, to deter bandits and infuse some level of confidence in commuters. History and expected intelligence would so demand. One may be tempted to ask if fear or other factors seemingly deter effective and sustained action.
That said, a basic understanding of general Police procedures in such circumstances suggests that the scene be thoroughly secured within reasonable time, and that vehicles involved be removed immediately after investigations, so that traffic can return to normal. The latter is crucial given the dangers and lack of an alternative route along the area in question. The dark of night is no excuse.
It should be noted that the accident occurred during daylight hours, while the truck was torched in the dark. That in itself raises questions about securing the scene. That aside, there is no denying that pedestrians using the roadways are exposed to risks, given the volume of vehicles. The area where the accident occurred is no different. While a pedestrian crossing is about twenty feet away, not much else is in place to enhance safety.
The accident has therefore clearly exposed various known weaknesses in safety of the roads, traffic management, and security, among other factors. Inasmuch as the related laws must be enforced to curb traffic violations by motorists, the same must also be for errant pedestrians, many of whom blatantly disregard overhead passes designed with their safety in mind.
Of crucial importance is the need for law enforcement to mitigate the threat posed to commuters by rogue elements in Agricola. That village has law-abiding citizens who must be embarrassed at the stigma unfortunately earned by the set who are bent on creating mayhem. In addition, residents who are fearful for their safety may understandably be reluctant to provide information.
With sporadic raids becoming predictable, the Police would have to find innovative and practical means to curb that threat in the interest of the decent, law-abiding residents of the village and of all others who have to traverse through it. From all reports, the image of the village continues to be tarnished by a wayward few.
One can only hope that the Police would swiftly conclude their investigations, which can be aided by the videos captured; implement necessary security measures; and that the authorities would soon put in place much needed infrastructural safety mechanisms, not only there, but at other areas where such dangers lurk. Failure to so do cannot be an option.