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Dangers will increase along with speed limit

Published: 
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I make reference to government’s intention to raise the speed limit from 80 kilometres per hour to 100 km/ph.

I am of a view that the action will exponentially increase dangers to unsuspecting citizens using our roadways.

Why? Bad drivers exceed prescribed speed limits due to a culturally low threshold of care and attention, intemperance, immaturity and poor judgment. And substance abuse. Any or all of the above will not disappear with an increased speed limit.

Another assessment is that a number of drivers are first generation drivers and owners of vehicles, who, unexposed to the art and science of good defensive driving skills, represent a clear and present danger to road users.

Legislators also need to consider the overall high levels of illiteracy of drivers including the number of drivers, as a percentage, who purchased their drivers licences by illegal means because they simply cannot functionally read and interpret correctly. Many do not know the difference between kilometres and miles on a speedometer.

If I am correct that there are sufficient numbers of impacting drivers, who, recklessly, are unable to assess road dangers and defensively negotiate around the added difficulty of increasing numbers of vehicles on roads, before increasing speed limits on the highways, legislators should also factor into their considerations policing effectiveness. The state of the roads, routinely badly managed and in constant need of disrepair or redesign, should also be considered.

Badly designed and badly built roads, the absence of signage, or confusing signage and bad road conditions also create vehicular accidents even among the most careful of drivers. One of several examples of a badly designed roadway in bad driving conditions is the intersection in rush hours between Warner Street and Cipriani Boulevard in Port-of-Spain.

A marriage of bad roads and road conditions and poor driving skills, including intemperance and inattention, in conjunction with an increased speed limit, is likely to accelerate road deaths and severity of injuries and overburden the country’s forensic facility and health care system.

Further, there should be a system in place for initiating new drivers, in particular, chronologically young ones, before the speed limit is increased.

Legislators should consider provisional licences in the first year for first time drivers. For example, no young driver should be able to drive passengers around without an experienced and competent driver in attendance, and at all times new drivers driving after sundown should be accompanied by an experienced and competent driver.

An increased speed limit on highways will re-energize fresh, breakneck cultural traits using new levels of acceleration performances like going from zero to 100km/ph in two seconds flat, licking up every body in between. It will happen that the more highways we build, with increased speed, more people will die or be maimed unless we first change negative cultural habits.

The reality is that as a small developing nation, the islands of T&T possess a mass of road networks in a relatively very small area, altogether 5131km, on which people are maimed or die from an absence of road etiquette as a result of undesirable cultural habits.

In a culture of indiscipline, imitating road norms from foreign and superimposing them on this country will likely not successfully achieve desired goals.

KATHLEEN PINDER