Accident survivor wants new highway leg closed after cow crash
A motorist who had an accident after encountering several cows standing in pitch darkness along the May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000 wants the authorities to close the roadway until critical infrastructure is in place to prevent similar crashes.
Sheldon Tomlin, who lives in Williamsfield, Manchester, told The Gleaner that he was taking a friend who was visiting the island to Kingston on Saturday night when the freakish accident occurred.
“We were coming from Williamsfield and just as we passed the Porus exit on the new leg of the highway, I just saw four or five cows standing on the road,” he explained.
“But the road is very, very dark, so by the time I got to the cows, … well, by the time I saw the cows was when I was pretty much on top of the cows. So I swerved from what I could see, but I swerved into a black cow that I couldn’t see at all,” he said.
The 38-year-old argued that the accident could have been prevented if there had been proper lighting on the newly opened roadway.
“I think the road should be closed for now until they put the proper infrastructure in place. I hear that they are stealing fences, but I don’t think we can depend on [only] the fences. ... If it was more properly lit, then an accident of that nature could have been avoided,” Tomlin said, noting that lives could be lost if the situation is not addressed urgently.
Since the opening of the highway leg two weeks ago, safety concerns, including inadequate signage and lighting and the danger posed by stray animals have been raised.
On Monday, China Harbour Engineering Company Jamaica Limited, the contractor, pointed to acts of vandalism and the theft of fencing along the highway, noting that this has become a major concern.
Fortunately, Tomlin said that he and the three passengers in the vehicle only sustained minor injuries.
Although he did not indicate whether he intends to pursue legal action against the highway operators, the businessman, who is in the food service industry, said that he has already consulted an attorney.
“It was frightening. This would be my very first accident in probably in almost 20 years of driving. This is my first accident,” he said.
Vice-chairman of the National Road Safety Council, Dr Lucien Jones, told The Gleaner that the incidents with stray animals on the highway “represent the potential for something worse to happen”.
He outlined that there have been at least six fatal crashes involving animals locally since January, with five of the deaths occurring in western Jamaica.
“We need to take note so that something terrible does not happen on the highway,” he stated.
Jones noted that the stealing of fences along highways has been a longstanding problem, adding that more than one kilometre of fencing had been stolen from the P.J. Patterson Highway in three years.
Although he acknowledges that most highways do not generally have lighting, he contends that since this particular leg passes through “cow country”, it would be useful to install street lamps in these areas as well as at locations where thieves are removing fences.
Meanwhile, Jones said that “certain aspects of what you’d associate with a safe road were missing” when the highway was opened. This includes proper signage as well as functioning stoplights.
“The stoplight which allows people to come off the highway to return to May Pen, there is a stoplight there which is supposed to regulate traffic, it’s not yet energised by JPS (the Jamaica Public Service Company). Already, they have had one crash there with a lady who went through the stoplight,” he said.
But he said since those concerns were raised with the National Road Operating & Constructing Company Limited, more signage has now been installed and stop signs have been erected where the stoplight is.
“There are some other things which ought to be done, which they said could not be done until the road is open,” he said.