A screen grab from Blacktip Island resident Cori Anders’ cell-phone video showing James Connlee’s activated turn signal Wednesday evening. Conlee was awarded the Tiperon Islands Safety Commendation Medal for his action. (photo courtesy of Cori Anders)
A longtime Blacktip Island resident was awarded the Tiperon Islands Safety Commendation Medal Wednesday after it was confirmed he was the first island motorist to use a turn signal.
“I was gobsmacked,” said witness Cori Anders, who videoed the incident with her cell phone. “It happened right in front of Sandy Bottoms. A dozen of us were there. No one had ever seen anything like it on Blacktip. It took a moment to sink in.
“James Conlee had to wait for a big Skerritt Construction truck to pass by before he turned into the car park for happy hour,” Anders said. “I suppose he got bored and reckoned he’d fiddle with the signal lever. He apologized afterwards.”
Authorities awarded the medal to send a positive reinforcement to the community.
“We want to encourage this kind of thing on the part of all residents,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Especially with the increasing number of cars on the island and the busy spring tourist season approaching.”
Many on the small Caribbean island were stunned by Conlee’s action.
“All island cars have turn indicators, but no one uses them,” resident Payne Hanover said. “There’s two roads and a half-dozen parking lots. Why bother?
“Sometimes people hit their indicator out of habit, but the wiring’s usually toast, or they have burned out bulbs. The store doesn’t even carry replacements. There’s no market for them. James got caught up in the perfect storm of flipping a switch and having it actually work.”
Some residents see the award as a slippery slope.
“What do we need with turn signals?” B.C. Flote said. “Since day one, folks’ve made unannounced turns whenever they wanted, and no harm done. Now, people start using turn signals, the next thing you know, Rafe’ll be handing out seatbelt fines and speeding tickets. It’s another sign this island’s getting too crowded.”
Conlee said he didn’t deserve the commendation.
“Not right, like I’m a hero or anything,” he said. “Just did what anyone would’ve done if they’d been in that situation after drinking all day. Blame it on the rum, you know?”
After the award ceremony, Conlee was fined for not registering the 1987 Toyota Corolla since 2013. The vehicle failed a subsequent safety inspection for roadworthiness and was towed to the island’s landfill.