On a scorcher of a Sunday a little over twelve years ago, I found myself on the side of the Bonne Terre road a little dazed and confused. My shoes had seemingly gone missing, there were voices buzzing in the background, and the incessant mooing of an irate cow. It was Easter and I had just found myself in my first and only vehicular accident.
To borrow the mantra of our Royal St Lucia Police Force, the details are still a bit sketchy, even to this day. However, I do remember turning into the Bonne Terre gap, northbound, and another vehicle exiting. He never stopped, hitting the driver’s side of my vehicle sending me careening into a telephone pole where the aforementioned cow was tied. In my efforts to avoid it, I swerved off the road into a ditch. The one thing about that hazy day that has remained imprinted in my mind after all these years is the memory of the vehicle’s occupants meandering about the scene, beers in hand, including the driver.
Being on the road in St Lucia in any capacity is tough. Not just because of the sometimes narrow roads, hairpin bends, and blind corners, but because of the recklessness of our drivers and also pedestrians. And of course, there is the fact that when it comes to these matters, our laws appear archaic and even non-existent.
As of late, accidents related to drunk driving seem to be on the rise. During my time overseas, it always stood out to me how concerned my companions were with how much alcohol they had consumed before getting behind their steering wheels. Driving under the influence carries major penalties in the U.S. In addition to fines being levied, repeat offenders may face mandatory jail time, have their license suspended, and possibly revoked with an arduous process to get it reinstated.
Of course that could never happen here. Besides the overwhelming and obvious stench of spirits, how else would we identify those whose blood alcohol level is well above the legal limit? What, a Breathalyzer test you say? Is there a legal limit? Who knows? Then again, the guys involved in my imbroglio were well aware that there was nothing to be done, given the way they brazenly flaunted their Sunday afternoon stash. A couple of them looked like they shouldn’t have even been drinking given their prepubescent faces. But again, does anyone know what the legal drinking age is here? On many occasions I’ve seen teenagers purchasing drinks they have no business being near. Not to mention the mere babes being sent to local ‘Cabaways’ by their parents.
But drunk driving is just the tip of the iceberg. There is no reason I should see a trailer truck barreling down the highway with its attachment swinging back and forth, pendulum style. Yes this has happened, several times for that matter. Cars bobbing and weaving through traffic and overtaking in the worst possible places is also a popular pastime. How many times have you held your breath as you try to accommodate drivers who’ve made the ill advised decision to drive in the oncoming traffic lane, only to be met by, well, oncoming traffic!
In the past week, two pedestrians were killed in separate incidents. There is not enough information to say for certain what took place but it’s hard not to think the worst. Not that pedestrians haven’t been the bane of many drivers’ existence. Surely you have encountered the random person crossing the street, well away from an actual crossing, and doing so as slowly as humanly possible while you sit seething with rage. You can almost hear them tell you “Bonx me uh” as they glance over at you with unconcerned stares.
But all this goes back to the almost lawless nature of this country. And exactly why you always hear, “This is St Lucia where we are happy.” Too happy…