Jamaica Gleaner / Last week I was returning from Spanish Town to St. Andrew. It was about 7 p.m. and the line of traffic exiting the municipality close to Twickenham Park was long and slow-moving. As I approached the checkpoint, I rolled down all my windows and turned on the interior roof light. Several security personnel were checking the entry and exit traffic. I saw the one soldier near to my side of the road raise his hand as if signalling me to stop.
I wondered why he repeatedly signalled me to stop when I was already doing just that. I crawled the car forward in order to line up with him and it was at that time that a passing bicyclist shouted to me to hold up. I stopped a few metres from the soldier and then I saw him signal another vehicle to pass ahead of me between us. It was a quiet police vehicle that I could not see because of its angle of approach behind me.
After the police vehicle passed, he signalled me to go through but then, a second soldier stepped forward as I was driving away and asked, “Didn’t you see me signalling you to stop, sir?” I shouted back, “No boss” as I drove away. The fact is that I never saw that one signalling at all.
Both were wearing black gloves, the kind used when they search. It was dark and the oncoming traffic had a lot of very bright high beams aimed my way. It was simply impossible for me to see the second fellow signalling, I could clearly see the first one because he was closer to me. I wondered why they expect motorists to easily see their hands in black gloves, at night.
Any security officer that signals any road user ought to have on bright-coloured reflective gloves, night or day. The soldiers did not have reflective gloves, and they were not wearing reflective vests, either. The only reason that none has been injured so far is that there are signs signalling drivers to slow down as they approach. Actually, I believe that those warning signs are way too close to the checkpoint. There should be several signs and some should be a fair distance away.
That experience reminded me of other, far more dangerous situations in which I’ve seen the police operating at night. I was driving from St Mary to St Ann when my front-seat passenger and I thought that we saw something in the road at the same time. I was adhering to the posted speed limit and as I slowed down, we both saw a policeman in the road with his hand raised, signalling me to stop.
Because we saw the policeman late, my stop was somewhat clumsy. He remarked that I stopped close to him. It wasn’t that close and he was in no immediate danger but, if I had been going faster, the story would have been a lot different. The problem is that it was dark, the oncoming lights made it difficult to see him and, although he was wearing a reflective vest, it was all worn out. Between his worn-out vest and lack of reflective gloves at night, it was as if he was barely visible.
Other potentially dangerous situations are when the police stop drivers on the North-South highway. There are many dark spots where they stop speeders while wearing dull reflective vests and without any reflective gloves. Putting their lives at risk to write speeding tickets is ridiculous. The security personnel have a false sense of security. The authorities need to acquire better reflective vests and supply reflective gloves to keep them safe.