How many of our mothers, fathers, children, community leaders, educators and visitors will we continue losing to traffic fatalities in Eleuthera? Behind each life lost and statistic lies a personal tragedy; it represents a member of a close-knit community, a friend, a family member, or a neighbor taken away prematurely.

The tranquil beauty of Eleuthera, with its pristine beaches and charming communities, is facing an unsettling reality again – an alarming resurgence in traffic accidents and fatalities that demand our urgent attention.

In 2023, Traffic Division Chief Superintendent David Lockhart and his team shared in a town hall meeting held in Eleuthera that there was a 600% increase in fatalities when comparing 2021 to 2022. In 2021, Eleuthera recorded 73 crashes. In 2022, that number jumped to 117. In just the first month of 2024, there have already been two fatalities. Accidents on the island can be unforgiving.

Due to Eleuthera’s narrow topography and the lengthy, winding Queen’s Highway with sparse lighting and limited road reflectors in certain areas, navigating the road is challenging, especially at night. As the number of vehicles on the island increases, so does the need for a collective commitment to road safety.

Several factors are escalating the road safety crisis in Eleuthera. As the island ascends to the second most visited destination in The Bahamas, the notable increase in visitors, developers, and persons moving to the island has led to a surge in vehicular traffic. Driving under the influence, speeding, and inattention are contributing factors to the rise in traffic accidents and fatalities.

Why Do These Accidents Occur?

Additionally, Chief Superintendent Lockhart revealed that many of these accidents occurred because individuals were engaged in activities that deterred their focus while driving their vehicles, neglecting the attention required on the road. The stark reality of “speed kills” is also evident as police revealed that some persons clocked 100 miles per hour when they conducted checks in settlements. Police officers also need more tools and resources to monitor traffic better. Poorly maintained roads, limited signage, and insufficient lighting also compound the problem. Fortunately, the government revealed that there will be significant improvements to Eleuthera’s road infrastructure commencing over the next few months.

It’s Time to Acknowledge the Problem

The time has come for us to acknowledge the magnitude of the problem and collectively work towards solutions that prioritize road safety. It is crucial to address this issue because of the challenges we face in accident response times across our 110-mile-long island, logistical planning in delivering critical care and rescue, and the limited medical resources available to victims following major accidents. These factors significantly affect survival rates and can

intensify the strain on first responders, who are usually community volunteers with limited medical training.

Every minute counts in the aftermath of a major traffic accident. Delayed response times mean that the critical window of time to provide urgent care immediately following a traumatic incident slips away. This crucial period often decides the difference between life and death, making swift emergency responses non-negotiable. The correlation between delayed response times and increased fatality rates is glaring. On most family islands lacking adequate emergency medical services, the severity of injuries sustained in accidents is exacerbated, leading to a higher likelihood of fatalities and permanent injury.

As a Result, There are Some Critical Steps We Need to Take to Help Reduce Accidents and Fatalities on Eleuthera:

1. Collaboration between local government, law enforcement, and community leaders is crucial. Government agencies, alongside private stakeholders, must collaborate to implement and enforce effective road safety measures. This includes regular maintenance of roadways, stringent traffic regulations, and the deployment of law enforcement to monitor and penalize offenders. We will need more proactive measures, such as traffic calming initiatives and public awareness campaigns, to create safer streets for all.

2. Investing in clear signage and adequate lighting would significantly enhance the safety of our roads and communities. Continued advocacy for improved infrastructure, including well-maintained roads and clear signage, is essential.

3. Education and awareness are critical tools in the fight for road safety. Community workshops, school programs, and outreach initiatives can play a pivotal role in distributing information about responsible driving behaviors, the importance of obeying speed limits, and the hazards of distracted driving. Our community-led initiatives, town hall meetings, and partnerships with local law enforcement can foster a sense of responsibility and ownership over our roadways.

4. It’s also time for us to give a voice and platform to those affected. Every statistic has a human story. We must tell it. Families are grappling with the loss of loved ones, and the trickling effects extend far beyond the accident scene. We cannot undervalue the emotional toll on survivors, witnesses, and the broader community.

5. We also have to find ways to embrace technological advancements. Implementing smart traffic management systems, utilizing sensors for real-time monitoring, and exploring the potential of Artificial Intelligence in creating safer roadways are all avenues that can be explored to save lives and make our streets safer for motorists and pedestrians.

The alarming increase in traffic accidents and fatalities in Eleuthera demands our immediate and concerted action. The shift towards safer roads begins with a change in mindset. We must take collective responsibility, with every driver, pedestrian, and community member actively fostering road safety.

As community leaders, we at One Eleuthera Foundation will continue to do our part in advocating for and supporting greater road safety measures for our communities in 2024 and beyond. Together, we can raise awareness and drive change—ensuring that the tranquility of our communities is not disturbed by the tragedy of traffic fatalities and untimely deaths.

About One Eleuthera Foundation

Founded in 2012, One Eleuthera Foundation is a community-based non-profit organization dedicated to transforming our local island communities into thriving, self-sufficient ecosystems. We do this by focusing on five key areas: economic ownership, meaningful educational advancement, pathways to wellness, and environmentally sustainable communities centered around our island’s unique cultural identity. We run a number of social enterprises, including CTI, our vocational school; the Retreat Hotel, a training hotel for hospitality students; and our farm and Cooling House, which trains future farmers in the best sustainability and food production practices. Through OEF’s consistent dedicated efforts, the tenacity and resourcefulness of our legacy community, and the support of donors and partners, we are creating change in Eleuthera.