Curb road carnage with punitive laws

By Raffique Shah
Sunday, May 24th 2009

Trinidad and Tobago News Blog
www.trinidadandtobagonews.com/blog

Vehicular AccidentSOME 30-odd years ago, when the Solomon Hochoy Highway was completed and fully opened to traffic (initially, only one carriageway was built and used), accidents close to the Claxton Bay flyover were not uncommon. Many were fatal, and that at a time when there were fewer than one-third the vehicles we now have using the nation’s roadways. Because accidents close to Claxton Bay happened more frequently than elsewhere, people tried to figure out why this was so.

I should add that I have lived in Claxton Bay since 1973, so I know that section of the Hochoy Highway well. Superstitious people blamed the “death strip” on a nearby headless statue that sat on a hill overlooking the area. It occurred to me, a realist, that it was one of the few sections of the highway that did not run straight. If you think of it carefully, from the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway entering/exiting Port of Spain, the Uriah Butler and Hochoy highways run almost straight, without corners.

The first corner is on the approach to the Freeport flyover-and there have been several horrible accidents there. On the South-bound section, several speeding vehicles “straightened” the corner by flying through the space between the two flyovers. They landed 20 or so feet below, on the Freeport Mission Road, many with fatal consequences. I recall one accident in which the vehicle that “flew” off the flyover landed on a taxi, killing one occupant. Several fatalities have occurred in that vicinity over the years.

The second, more dangerous corner is on the approach to Claxton Bay. Motorists on the South-bound carriageway face not only a sharp corner, but a fairly steep, downhill gradient as well. One can imagine, therefore, what can happen when a motorist is speeding on that approach, and loses concentration for a split-second.

He would fly across the median and should he miss the stout pillars that support the flyover, end up crossing the northbound carriageway. Travelling in the opposite direction there is also a gradient and corner, but the former is not that steep.

What these features signal to any sober motorist is that you need to be extra-cautious on approaching the Claxton Bay flyover. One should moderate one’s speed, grip the steering wheel with both hands, and be ready to apply brakes if that becomes necessary. Such precautions are even more of an imperative given the speed that modern vehicles constructed with flimsy alloys can attain. Add drunkenness or being sleepy to the equation, and what you have is a recipe for disaster.

The Express editorial last Friday also correctly identified another danger-the use of cellular phones while driving. In many ways the cellphone is more dangerous to humankind than a blessing. Many motorists, mainly the young and inexperienced, seem to be glued to these devices when they are driving. Some even send text messages while driving! Few have hands-free kits that at least mitigate the dangers of talking while driving.

Experienced drivers know that once one wheel of these fast-but-flimsy vehicles loses traction, that’s it. The vehicle spins out of control, and the rest is bloody history. Sensible drivers know other than lack of concentration, it’s almost impossible to lose control of a vehicle-barring, say, a blown tyre or dropping into a huge pothole. Yet, whenever we hear of accidents that are claiming lives and maiming more people, there is always the report: the driver lost control of the vehicle.

Bull, I say. Driving anywhere in Trinidad, from the most remote districts to those with heavy traffic, has become a hazardous venture. In my autumn years, I now have to keep peering into my rear-view mirrors, look ahead of me and try to pre-determine what some fool might do, check the shoulder for some jackass speeding on it. In fact, within recent times, I even look at traffic approaching in the opposite direction.

Carnage on the nation’s roads is cause for concern. Runaway vehicles are worse than runaway crime. In the latter, if the criminal is caught, at least he or she is brought to justice, maybe jailed. On the nation’s roadways, criminals can kill innocent people and drive away without even stopping. I have long fulminated against the archaic traffic laws that offer incentives to reckless motorists rather than punish them. Imagine having to pay a fine of $200 for driving on the shoulder of the highway, or a similar amount for drag-racing.

After last week’s deadly accident at Claxton Bay, Roger Ganesh, Director of Highways, visited the area to see what can be done to curb the carnage. What he needs to tell Minister Colm Imbert is that implementation of the breathalyser legislation is more important than dreaming of a rapid rail system. Fines for dangerous driving should be punitive, not puny! CCTV cameras at these “danger zones” will help capture road-criminals. Seize their vehicles and impound them at police stations: they are sure to find them missing parts and accessories when they retrieve them!

Implement a “points” system, a “highways hotline” so law-abiding motorists can report dangerous activities on the nation’s roads. Too many innocent people are paying with their lives and limbs for the sins of lawless motorists.

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7 Responses to “Curb road carnage with punitive laws”


  • like so many previous inquiries nothing is going to come from ganesh
    same problem different day.

  • I am not changing what i wrote. That’s the problem with my country. No wonder the country is in such a bad state. What I said stands. You do not have to publish it. I am sticking to my belief. I read
    enough and i listen to the trini radio stations every day to know what is happening down there. Good night

  • Raffique, What you described that you do now in your autumn years while on the road, isn’t that what you are you suppose to do on the roads no matter what season. Maybe the drivers are still in their spring years, and obviously not paying attention yet. As in the most recent accidents. Probably busy with their cell, eating, putting on make up, or at worst buzzed.
    Besides huge fines, jail time, Drunk Driver course, no car until it is all paid up and completed. As someone who works with drunk drivers they are in so much denial,and full of them selves, even after they have killed someone, they still act as though its not that bad. The only thing that makes them cry is money, and jail.

  • The points maded by Ganesh makes sense We all do not have to agree with everything Ganesh says,; but the one thing we may agree on is that too many of our people are being killed on the road because of reckless and/or drunk drivers.

    Our society
    *tolerates drinking and driving;
    * belittles those who refuse to drink & drive
    *does not have seatbelt laws
    *need to teach children substance abuse prevention
    *should begin a national campaign for safer driving
    *implement the point system for insurance premiums this will increase premiums for drivers with a record of unsafe driving.

  • Errata… the author of the piece to whic I was responding was Raffique Shah; not Ganesh. Please accept my apology for this error.

  • Carnage on the road is usually caused by young and impAtient, inexperienced drivers. Higher insurance rates may help, but not much. The competitive instinct is there, the experience handling a car is not. Could rumble strips be the answer? They slow you down whether you want to or not. In my town of high overpasses, some as high as seven storeys, the protective curbs are scored with the tires of people who approached the overpass as if it was a level road and some of them are sharper than a right angle. You simply cannot negotiate that at eighty miles an hour. In addition, alcohol, and an absence of seatbelts are factors in fatal accidents. Police should establish road blocks, as well as lighted death masks/crosses and other symbols, in high accident areas.Flashing lights and a mandatory reduced speed could help. If the fine for speding was confiscation of the vehicle until the fine was paid(Active in the State of Maryland) people would slow down.

    We must be the only country in the world where population control is managed by murder,including domestic violence, and accidental death at the hand of some crazy driver. WE AS A PEOPLE, NOT JUST THE MANNING GOVERNMENT, COULD DO BETTER THAN THAT.

    The crucial person here though, is the driver. Measures taken by the police could only go so far. We need to become again, a culture that values life, including our own.

  • I would recommended seeking the assistance of a group in the state’s called Evo Street Racers. They specialize in reducing many of the problems you speak about. There website is http://www.EvoStreetRacers.com They did a lot for us in the NW Australia and I imagine they could do the same for you too.

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