I have no knowledge of the nature of the fatal accident which claimed the life of popular business personality Mr Leon ‘Junior’ Barrett, but as expected, there was once again talk aplenty and many emotional outbursts, such as, how many more accidents and lives must be lost before we know too many have died; before we move positively and resolutely to make the Linden-Soesdyke Highway safer?
It seems to me this on-the-spur-of-the-moment reaction has become our preferred mode of disapproval/protest whenever these horrendous accidents involving logging trucks occur. For too long we have confined ourselves to beating our chests and exclaiming from the mountain top the exact same thing, thus by the time the victims of the accidents are buried and the dust settles everything is forgotten until another fatal event comes along.
Now as one brother, Mr Ruel Johnson, wrote in the paper some days past, I too have to say that “I am tired because this thing isn’t anything historically new.” Accidents on the highway involving logging-trucks fetching timber 50-60 feet long and sometimes 3 feet in diameter, packed to the sky, induce a dread sense of foreboding. We daily witness low-beds transporting massive, monstrous pieces of machinery plying the highway, some not even strapped down, as I have seen. What if one of these rusty-looking chains snapped?
Then again too often some break down and have no proper lights or reflectors at night.
And all of this has been around from the inception of the highway. Someone reminded me that the highway fatality in 1968 involved a logging truck, and that the problem persists to this day. Now in the name of all the gods, do you mean to tell me that after some 45 years of gruesome fatalities, loss of limbs and distress, nothing has been attempted by anyone in authority with a vision to at least lessen the carnage?
Disgusted as I am about this issue, and feeling at times like a voice in the wilderness, I’ll keep pegging at it and hopefully an echo will be heard. I wrote last year that travelling by night is a dangerous and frightening experience: “Yuh gat fuh know the road.” The years have certainly taken the best of it, which is evident to all who regularly travel. Too many long sections of this highway undulate causing drivers to be steadily criss-crossing to avoid bad portions, so definitely there are parts which need resurfacing. There is need for more reflectors on the road, for brightening up marking lines, for more lighted posts on turns ‒ even higher up. Trees too near the road should be regularly cut instead of breaking and falling across the road.
There is definitely need for some amount of light, if not throughout, at least at certain critical points. Why still have logging trucks running throughout the night without proper lights and ring reflector barricades for parking when broken down? Tell me what’s wrong with utilising the river to transport this lumber? And why don’t drivers ‒ all drivers ‒ dip their high-beam lights at night? Are they too dumb to understand that their high-beams cause problems for other drivers and spell equal danger for them also. I contend that policing along the highway at night ‒ even in the daytime ‒ should help stop some of the nonsense causing accidents. Editor, allow me to make an observation that was pointed out to me by a driver who sees the curb along the highway as very dangerous, and thinks it ought to be removed. The reason is that any driver losing control of his vehicle and whose wheel hits the curb is most likely to topple. He suggested instead that it be completely removed, the trees cleared away ‒ those trees make the road even darker ‒ and sand spread thickly along both sides, so in the event of a vehicle running off the road, the sand serves as a safety device to some extent.
And yet again on a most disturbing note, why is it that mini-bus drivers especially want to complete their trips between Linden and Georgetown in one hour or less, and boast about it? Isn’t this some sort of crazy ‒ and at whose peril? It’s time commuters let their voices be heard, not in woeful lament after some unfortunate happenings but in a forthright manner, to let the drivers know that the highway is not the South Dakota racing circuit. It is my wish, my plea that the late Leon ‘Junior’ Barrett’s death involving a lumber truck and other such occurrences along the Linden-Soesdyke highway be the catalyst for some kind of reform and a new modus-operandi. We have had far too many deaths and too much suffering ‒ more than our fair share ‒ on this 45-year-old highway; it should no longer be seen as a killing field. As a lady said to me, “Frank, that highway is a death trap.” If nothing else, this one endeavour to positively reduce the carnage will most certainly further placate Leon ‘Junior’ Barrett’s soul and represent a fitting and indelible mark to his memory. He would be so pleased to know that the community which he was so passionately vocal about has used the manner of his departure to prevent other lives from being claimed in this way.