Accidents Cause Kosrae Governor Sigrah To Call For Road Safety Task Force

by Olivier Wortel

TOFOL, Kosrare (The Kaselehlie Press): April 4-17, 2002 - April 29, 2000 was the day of the groundbreaking ceremony for Kosrae's new road paving. The paving started in May of that year, and was finished in late November 2001, extending 22 miles from the airport at Okat to the end of the road in Utwe, nearly two-thirds the circumference of the island. February 19 marked the official dedication, with fanfare, speeches, and the ceremonial ribbon cutting.

However, the new road comes with new perils.

Between February 2 and February 26 there were a slew of violent accidents, which mostly happened on a dark and desolate stretch of road between Tenwak, Lela and Pingelap, Malem, close to the town of Utwe. The wrecks were generally caused by a ghastly combination of excessive speeds and drunk driving, culminating in the worst car crash in the state's history and leaving two promising and well-liked young men dead.

That, and other safety concerns, is why Governor Rensley Sigrah mandated an Executive Order on March 4, creating a special commission called the Public Road Safety Task Force.

One of the committees - the Legal System Committee - will be chaired by Associate Justice Aliksa B. Aliksa and will be looking at existing traffic laws and regulations, punishment laws, enforcement and prosecution procedures, rehab programs, and other safety issues and concerns.

The other subcommittee - Road System and Public Education Committee - will be chaired by Vice Speaker Patterson Benjamin and "will be making recommendations that address flaws in road safety and the need for road safety and education to all people of Kosrae," as stated in the Special Public Release, dated March 11.

The report noted that the members of the task force "expressed deep concerns," and that there was an "urgency" in looking at safety in all matters related to the use of public roads, from driving while intoxicated and illegal parking to pedestrian safety and lack of enforcement of current laws.

Public Safety has also stepped up its efforts, setting up road checks for drunk drivers at various points on the island, usually on pay day weekends.

"People need to know that drinking and driving is not acceptable, as well as reckless driving," one officer noted.