It has taken me four months to wrap my head around an issue that plagues our territory: safety. Residents will continue to debate opinions and facts until we agree on whatever needs to be done to ensure that our peace of mind is our number one priority.

Today, we face growing concerns for the future of the Virgin Islands. In the past, many of us left our doors unlocked and returned home or to our vehicles and nothing was missing. In the past, we agreed to disagree without the thought of bloodshed, but today this is not the case.

Safety is a daily social concern that every government minister, public officer, man, woman and child must think about. Some marriages fail due to an inadequate response to safety. Countries and territories are invaded due to breaches in safety, and people die due to reactive action towards safety. The issue of safety stretches to land, air, sea and cyberspace. Hence, continued dialogue and actions are needed in the quest for peace of mind.

As I read news headlines and online comment forums, I realise that some individuals take a negative view of what government ministers, engineers and other players are doing without first pausing to think about the reasons certain decisions are made.

In this regard, I refer to the redesigning and removing of the traffic-calming device in front of the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport.

As a citizen who resides and frequently jogs in the Eighth District, I support the move to redesign and remove the traffic-calming device. I have had to shy farther away from the device because motorists are still speeding past it, defeating its purpose. When traveling toward Trellis Bay, some motorists cross over to the right side of the road to bypass the device, rather than slowing down and staying in the proper lane. This forces joggers towards the ghut. These drivers’ actions are reckless. Hence, the situation warrants an alternative approach.

At first, however, I was more caught up with the cost of removing, redesigning, implementing and re-evaluating the project. I thought it would have been cheaper to widen the roadside and place low growing flowers in the device, but that was before I saw drivers using the opposite lane to bypass it.

Many of us do not realise that we are now privy to science at its best. We are now exposed to the reality of trial and error. Engineers observe their creations come to life; and after implementation, evaluation may reveal certain flaws which cause them to return to the drawing board. They can spend time in advance on small-scale simulation models to test scenarios, which may result in amending certain plans. But the true test is when the simulation becomes real and is implemented on the ground.    

The real concern for us is that it costs this territory too much money to implement these projects, and it costs more to correct them. A territory as small as this one cannot afford too many errors — at least not when we can learn from all the errors developed countries have made. At this stage, we need to measure four times and cut once.

Occupational hazards

I also have been noticing that utility service providers need to pull up their bootstraps when it comes to safety. I once saw a BVI Electricity Corporation team replacing a line in the Sophie Bay area, and there was no signage warning drivers travelling from the east that there was work ahead. There were no cones 200 feet out from the worksite, either. On another day at the same area, however, there was all the safety gear in the world. I could only think that different supervisors looked at safety differently on that day.

There have been other instances where a vehicular accident occurred and a tow truck was called to remove the wreckage. Usually debris is left at the scene, such as glass, oil and tyre fragments.

It is my opinion that tow-truck operators should clean the scene and make it safe for drivers and pedestrians. I remember that was the case in Chicago when my friend’s vehicle was totaled. After traffic inspectors obtained necessary evidence, tow-truck operators by law were required to make the scene safe before the road could be fully functional. Maybe there should be similar legislation here.

Though safety measures do not guarantee a safe environment, they reduce potential risks and liabilities. Safety is paramount, and putting our people first should be our number one priority.

Around the world, the cost of safety is in the billions. Safety takes proper planning, and proper planning may take years. The fact of the matter is that science has come this far not on the backs of first-time success but through trial and error.

To try and to err exposes our weaknesses, but it also provides a path toward success. But to err at such a time as this proves to be too taxing on the people of this territory. We must work together with elected representatives and public officers to ensure that we work smartly and efficiently in every endeavor.