THE EDITOR: I make reference to Government’s intention to raise the speed limit from 80 kilometres per hour to 100 kmph. I believe this will exponentially increase dangers to unsuspecting citizens using our roadways.
Why? Bad drivers exceed speed limits due to a culturally low threshold of care and attention, intemperance, immaturity, poor judgment, and substance abuse. Any or all of these will not disappear with an increased speed limit.
Another assessment is that a number of drivers are first-generation drivers 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 who, as a percentage, obtained their driver’s 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 drivers who, recklessly, are unable to assess road dangers and defensively negotiate around the added difficulty of the increasing numbers of vehicles on roads, before increasing speed limits on the highways, legislators should also factor into consideration policing effectiveness and inefficiencies and the state of the roads, routinely badly managed and in constant need of repair or redesign.
Badly designed and badly built roads, the absence of signage or confusing signage and bad road conditions also create 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, are likely to accelerate road deaths and severity of injuries and overburden the forensic facility and healthcare 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 behind the wheel after sundown should be accompanied by an experienced and competent driver.
If implemented, the practice will certainly restrict the wanton and unmanageable annual increase of vehicles on the roads and boost legitimate taxi services after hours. It is the job of legislative officers to work out definitions.
In the same way our people measure performance by maximum money for minimum output, an increased speed limit on highways will re-energise fresh, breakneck cultural experiences using new levels of acceleration performances, like going from zero to 100 kmph in two seconds flat, licking up everybody 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, TT possesses a mass of road networks in a relatively very small area, altogether 5,131 km, in which people are maimed or injured 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 in this country, will likely not successfully achieve desired goals.
KATHLEEN PINDER via e-mail