MARIGOT–A major road safety awareness operation organized on the initiative of the Préfecture and Gendarmerie, and involving all the institutional partners concerned with security, was held at French Quarter Collège on Tuesday morning, in cooperation with College Principal Eric Domichard.
It was the first time such a large-scale awareness operation had been staged with close to 500 students of the Collège forfeiting their morning classes to attend the various information sessions and demonstrations between 8:00am and 12:00pm on the Collège campus.
The Red Cross, Police Territorial, Gendarmerie, Fire Brigade (Sapeurs Pompiers), and Driving Schools used the classrooms to spread the message of safety and security, the importance of adhering to the highway code, wearing crash helmets, and proper protective clothing.
In view of the alarming statistics of road accidents, this awareness operation is targeting especially the riders of scooters and motorbikes. Of the 18 traffic accidents that occurred since the beginning of 2019 on the French side, 15 resulted in serious injuries. Three young people were killed, two in one day in French Quarter and another in Grand Case. The deceased were all riding scooters. Last year also saw three fatalities, again on scooters.
Observing the sessions in progress were Préfète Déléguée Sylvie Feucher, Chef de Cabinet Gregoire Pierre-Dessaux, Stephanie Gagne in charge of security and public relations at the Préfecture, Chargée de Mission Evelyne Fleming representing Head of Education for St. Martin and St. Barths, Michel Sanz, Director of the Collectivité’s anti-delinquance department CLSPD, Melanie Hodge, and Marie-Paule Rousseau Cornette, President of Centre d’Insertion symphorien (CSI) whose association in French Quarter has been at the forefront of instilling road safety into the youth with its helmet awareness campaigns.
Students rotated through the sessions in groups. The Pompiers simulated an intervention at an accident between 10:00am and 10:30am. Representatives from driving schools offered classroom instruction on the rules of the road and safety. Another classroom session enabled students to use a driving simulator, similar to an arcade video game.
Gendarmes and Territorial Police collaborated on giving instruction to students riding bicycles over a prepared course with road signs and pedestrian crossings on a basketball court. Elsewhere, Gendarmes had students taking part in an imaginary sobriety test, having them walk a line and make turns with special goggles that simulate the effect of alcohol.
“We have daytime goggles and nighttime goggles,” a Gendarme explained. “Visibility and perception are not the same in daytime as at night under the influence of alcohol. We also have goggles that simulate the effect of cannabis. This little walking test looks very easy but when you are under the influence it is a lot more complicated.”
Students were moved by the testimony of Cyprien Cambournac (39) who had a very bad motorbike accident 15 years ago when he was 24 years old in France and was run over by a car while on the ground. He has lost the use of his right arm. He spent two years in hospital. His life was spared because he was wearing a crash helmet.
“An accident like that has life-changing consequences on you, your job, your family, your health, your mental well-being; it affects everything,” he said. “I had to learn to walk again. I work now with one arm because I have to support my family and children because the pension is not enough. My handicap dictates what I can do or can’t do. Every day it is like that.”
In a subsequent press release, the Préfecture reminded how important it is to comply with road safety rules, to be vigilant and limit risky behavior on the roads.
“The misuse of alcohol and the use of narcotics are absolutely prohibited,” it stated. “Exceeding speed limits, not giving priority to right of way, and overtaking when the road is not clear are extremely dangerous maneuvers which can be dangerous for other drivers and pedestrians. Executing “wheelies” and other acrobatics on two-wheeled vehicles.
“Every day, the police are mobilized to remind us of the rules of good conduct by carrying out controls throughout the country. Whether in a car, or on two wheels, everyone is concerned, and everyone is responsible. Together, let’s make the road safer.
“Wearing of a crash helmet for two-wheeled vehicles is mandatory. Wear a jacket, gloves, long pants and closed shoes to improve your safety. Motorists should be courteous to other road users, taking into account road users who are more vulnerable. Adhere to speed limits and keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front.
“Do not drink and drive. Choose a designated driver who will not be drinking. Always fasten seat belts and have passengers do the same. Do not use headphones. Use the hands-free devices integrated in the vehicles. Pedestrians should always be vigilant. Wear a fluorescent vest with reflective strips or carry a flashing light that is clearly visible at dusk or nighttime.”
The road safety awareness operation, open to everyone, will be repeated on Thursday, May 16, at Louis Vanterpool Stadium in Marigot from 9:00am to 4:00pm.