Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Letter of the Day | Flat Bridge - how many more will die?

Published:Monday | July 18, 2016 | 7:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Many persons I know are terrified to cross Flat Bridge and many female passengers close their eyes until they cross. I still don't feel too comfortable crossing myself, especially when the river is in spate, with that gushing copper-coloured water lapping almost at the bottom of that bridge.

Although I must have crossed this historic structure thousands of times, it is still an experience one wishes to avoid if possible, especially at night. This centuries-old structure should have long been retired and remain as a monument to past days, but no, there has never been any money available to replace it, yet money can be found for less important things.

I hardly believe a record of the numbers who have perished by that bridge over the years is kept, but it must be quite a figure. In spite of the new highway with its magnificent bridges, most people will still have to use Flat Bridge because of where they live, so the highway is no replacement for the 'river road'.

A debt of gratitude is owed to those young men who often have to rescue persons from the river without the most basic equipment.

Observing the type of reckless driving done in Jamaica, I have seen motorists trying to overtake almost on the bridge, and some use it even when closed because of flooding. Those organisations responsible for road safety have done very little in making the bridge safer. Signage is poor, sometimes the lights don't work, guard rails are inadequate, and approaches to the bridge are much too small to comfortably accommodate long vehicles.

 

SEAT BELT DANGER

 

Although seat belts are good for dry-land accidents, they can become death traps if your car falls in water. When crossing places like Flat Bridge, it is wise to unlock belts before crossing, because the dam has caused the water south of the bridge to be quite deep and the largest vehicle falling in that section will be submerged.

The other danger is that most modern vehicles use electrically operated windows, which may not be able to be opened once under water. The doors also become difficult to open because of the pressure of the water. Many persons in such an accident may not be able to help themselves to escape from such situations, either through injury or panic.

The National Road Safety people should have an education programme on what to do if one's vehicle becomes submerged.

The question remains: How many more of us are required to die before the wretched structure is replaced? Are the ghosts of the 33 men who died in the gorge so long ago still haunting us?

TREVOR SAMUELS

President, National Consumers League

tasamuels@cwjamaica.com