The 8 Mile Rollercoaster
Eight miles of road so I am told. Not being a chap who likes to take everything I hear at face value I fired up Google Earth and measured it. Near as makes no difference there does appear to be eight miles of metaled road on St Mary’s. That is not a lot. It would be a fairly frustrating career if I had aspirations as a Traffic Police Officer. That length of road is comparatively minute to that of a beat I could expect on the mainland where the combined total of tarmac would be a factor of 100 longer. Roads policing then is not obviously much of an issue for the Policing Team on Scilly.
It is the one issue that raises its menacing head more often than any other. Whether it be lorries overtaking on blind corners, taxi’s driven too fast, bicycles ridden in the dark without lights, pedestrians wandering seemingly oblivious to vehicles, or a host of other road related ills the issue is always on the agenda. There was a time when drink driving was more or less accepted by the majority. Fortunately that is passing into the realms of history and it is only a small minority who cannot break habits and continue to ignore the inherent dangers posed by that practice. The Community Safety Partnership has canvassed residents over the years and the concern over road use has been voiced consistently as vehicles driving too fast. The speed limit on St Mary’s is currently 60 mph throughout. There are precious few opportunities for a motor vehicle to achieve that speed so the reality is that there probably is very little breaking of the speeding laws. I take it that what is meant by the term “speeding” is “driving too fast for the circumstances”. From a policing perspective that practice would be dealt with as driving without due care and attention. A notoriously difficult offense to evidence and prosecute. This is probably prevalent here because we are all so overly familiar with the roads that there is a greater propensity to be come complacent about the lack of danger around the next bend. Were a Road Planner to turn up on St Mary’s with a blank canvas and asked to construct a route around the island I am certain they would not design what we have now. Perhaps their effort would have less charm but it would not harbour the number of dangers that lurk in our lanes evolved for different traffic in a different century.
Driving and indeed using the roads as a pedestrian here safely requires greater anticipation of what may lay ahead and of what other road users may do. Too few people wear seat belts, especially men, so injuries when there is a collision carry greater risk to both the person not wearing restraint and all others involved. Most modern cars now have airbags. Why bother with a seat belt? I have had it chillingly explained to me by an accident weary colleague that belts and bags are designed to complement one another. No belt means the momentum could carry a person further into the path of the 200mph explosion than would be good for their health. Its not a cheery subject but it is also not the case that it won’t happen here as I have been told by some. An injury accident on Scilly is one of the things I fear most. We are a long way from specialist health care that may be necessary in such an event. Maybe this blog should be an opportunity for me to write a feel good policing story because, yes, Scilly is magical but it does not defy the laws of physics or probability. A tragedy on our roads will affect us all and I would rather that event never happened. So now is a good time for me to write this. It is a good time because it is before a serious collision happens. It is a good time for us all to resolve to use the roads more considerately and slow our speed to anticipate what is around the corner or if you are a pedestrian to stay atuned to traffic. Perhaps even a good time to resolve to wear a seatbelt even if the furthest you drive is only 8 times the distance that most accidents occur in.
Please, stay safe on our roads.