Driving in Jamaica

After 4 years of living here, I have a certain respect for Jamaican drivers. It takes  skill to navigate a junction when the lights are out, spliff in one hand, phone in other. Let alone to balance a goat on the roof, or drive round Barbican roundabout backwards, or ride a motorbike with one leg, all of which I’ve recently seen. But the recent death of a 6 year old boy known to our nanny, just cannot leave my mind.

In Jamaica, cars often stop for pedestrians. Anywhere, at any time. Often because they have to, as the pedestrian has just wandered into the road, fallen off the broken pavements, dropped a phone, and fair enough, what else can you do. Sometimes, a driver is just being friendly. Sees a lady, sees a child, waves them across the road. It’s raining, it’s hot, she’s cute, whatever. This is fine, unless it’s not – and then it can be fatal.

If you’re a driver and you are going to wave a pedestrian into the street, check your mirror first. Only do it if there’s nothing coming behind you at 40mph in the fast lane! Make it safe for them. Put on your hazards. Wave your arm out your window, so the next car behind you knows you’ve stopped for a reason!

With taxis and cars pulling over constantly in Kingston, without indicating, it’s hideously easy for the next car to pull out in frustration to overtake, with no idea the car in front stopped to let someone cross the road.

Last week an unaccompanied 6 year old boy was walking to school. I don’t know where he was crossing the road, but I can’t stop imagining how easily the accident happened. One driver stopped to let him cross, and the next car overtook and hit the child at full whack. One moment of intended kindness ended a child’s life and started a lifelong hell for the driver who hit him.

Don’t always let pedestrians cross, it might not be safe for them. And if the car in front of you randomly stops, mi beg yuh – tek time, tek time…

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