All the roads in TT should be designed, constructed, upgraded and maintained to be three-star or better standard roads.
The International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP) star ratings can be raised by simply providing proven safety features like pedestrian crossings, safe intersection layouts, safety barriers, road markings, lighting, and improved road surfaces. And for each incremental improvement in star rating, death and injury rates are typically halved.
Arrive Alive president Sharon Inglefield told Sunday Newsday this is just one project that should be under a Road Safety League Council, which the NGO proposed on January 2 in a letter to the Prime Minister.
She said the council will also manage a road safety systems approach which was recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). According to the WHO’s Save Lives technical package, the aim of this approach is to “inform and guide the building of a safe road system to prevent crashes, and if crashes occur, to ensure that impact forces are not sufficient to result in serious injury or death, that those injured are rescued and that they receive adequate trauma care.”
The council will comprise all direct stakeholders of road safety, including the TT Police Service (TTPS), the Judiciary, Ministry of Works and Transport, Water and Sewerage Authority, TT Electricity Commission (TTEC), Office of the Attorney General, Association of TT Hauliers, maxi taxi associations, Public Transport Service Corporation, the Transport Commissioner, Ministry of Education, Contractors Association, as well as road safety NGOs and the private sector.
The council will track data that is already being collected by the TTPS, coordinate various organisations, and ensure something is done with high-risk roads when it comes to design, construction, or modification of a hazard. The speed limit and volume of traffic on the particular road will be taken into consideration and international standards for various potential hazards will be implemented. “The council tracks and evaluates data and is guided by re-designing and upgrading roads based on hard facts in order to save lives.”
She said there will always be drivers who disobey the laws of the road, but the safe systems approach will make the roads more forgiving when there were accidents. “For example we have had nine death on highways. It could be because of speeding but TTEC poles may have further complicated the collision, causing additional damage, injuries or death because they may be too close to the road traffic. The idea is we could discuss those nine locations and decide whether we should move those TTEC poles or modify them with barriers, crash cushions, or delineated reflective tape.”
Another example of a hazard, she said, is concrete barriers as many of them are not properly installed. She said concrete barriers on the highways are supposed to be secure – cemented down or tied in – so as to stop crossover collisions. However, they are not and when someone crashes into them, the barriers sometimes move, causing more damage or collisions.
Inglefield said TT also needs a transportation policy which will encompass the ferries to and from Tobago and San Fernando, all vehicles on the road, and pedestrians, and take into account how they are impacted by road design, lighting, markings and signage.
“If we have more cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians now, the policy would state how we would protect these vulnerable road users. So the policy would say, ‘In the next five years we need to have constructed a cycling and motorcycling lane, better pedestrian crossings with signs telling drivers to slow down or wigwags (crossing lights) that drivers could easily see from way back that a pedestrian crossing is coming up.”
She believes the lead council should be responsible to ensure that the Ministry of Works and Transport creates a transportation policy within a certain time frame, and given a mandate to implement the short, medium, and long-term goals of the transportation policy.
She said since 2009, the ministry has been doing a lot for road safety so there has been a continuous decrease in road accidents. However, an official council is needed so it can be included in the annual national budget.
In addition, she said it is necessary to close the gap at the country’s licensing offices. With people still buying their driver’s licenses, there are many drivers who do not understand the risks and hazards of the road. Therefore, she said it is important that drivers be trained and made more competent.