GUAM has one of the highest rates of traffic accidents in the country. That’s one of the startling facts to emerge from Mar-Vic Cagurangan’s two-part Variety series “Hell on Wheels” yesterday and today.
“We have more than twice the national average per capita,” public safety educator Robert Michael said. “The national average is 19 crashes per 1,000 people. Guam has 41 crashes per 1,000 people." That’s more than 6,500 crashes every year, most involving more than one vehicle.
If you get the feeling whenever you get behind the wheel that your number may be about to come up, you’re not alone. Driving on Guam becomes more of an adventure every day. You can probably come up with your own list of reasons why Guam is such a thrilling place to drive, but here are some of ours:
- Poorly-timed signals. There are places where green lights only allow 10 seconds or less for traffic to proceed before they change. Such short-timed greens only encourage the tendency to run the orange or red lights. Particularly bad are the left turns from Marine Corps Drive into Tumon northbound in front of K-Mart; into Ypao Road in front of the 76 station; and the straight-ahead green across Route 1 from the E.T. Calvo Memorial Parkway into Route 14, or Chalan San Antonio.
- Bad lane markings. Despite some painting of stripes and curbs recently, there are still places where the lane lines are almost completely obliterated. Good luck driving at night, especially if it’s raining. You just hope your headlights will catch an occasional reflector.
- Excessive speed. The top speed limit on Guam is 35mph, but there are stretches of Marine Corps Drive, Route 15 and Route 4 where cars routinely go twice that fast. Enforcement is spotty to non-existent.
- Drinking and driving. Most serious crashes on Guam involve a combination of driving under the influence and speeding. You can even buy beer by the case at every gas station, which makes no sense. It all causes us nervous anxiety, since you never know when the nut behind the wheel of that car coming toward you may lose it.
- Increasingly prevalent "Guam Bombs." They look like they’ve already been in several accidents, and you just know the drivers of them are not insured and maybe aren’t even licensed. Here again, enforcement by our underfunded and overworked police department is spotty.
There you go. Add to the list if you like. And drive carefully. We’re a car-crazy island where the average family probably has three or four vehicles. Traffic gets worse every day. Good luck!