Activist wants data on speed-limit changes

Vishal Persad. -
Vishal Persad. -

SOCIAL activist and blogger Vishal Persad wants Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan to give him engineering reports, data and any other pertinent information relied on by the ministry to vary the speed limit in certain parts of the country.

On June 14, attorneys for Vishal Persad sent a freedom of information request to the minister and the ministry’s administrative officer.

In the letter, attorneys Kiel Taklalsingh and Keron Ramkhalwhan said Persad was seeking to examine whether the speed limits imposed lacked the requisite scientific and engineering evidence to justify their imposition.

They also said transparency and accountability were essential pillars of good governance, particularly regarding matters as critical as road safety and traffic regulation.

"There is a general consensus that the government has varied the speed limits and increased fines as a revenue-generating measure to entrap motorists as opposed to ensuring road safety.

"Indeed, if these measures are justified in law, then there should be no issue with disclosing the documents and/or information purportedly relied upon to vary these speed limits,” the letter said.

The ministry was given until July 14 to provide the information, failing which, Persad will explore his legal options to compel the disclosure.

Sinanan has justified the new speed limits, saying engineering changes to the roads were one reason the speed limit was modified in some areas.

The letter said Persad wants to determine whether the minister arbitrarily imposed the speed limits and whether they are aligned with constitutional principles and safeguards.

On June 10, the change in speed limits took effect with adjustments to 65 kilometres an hour for parts of Lady Young Road, Morvant; and the Western Main Road, from Mucurapo to the intersection of the Western Main Road and Westland Avenue. The limit along the South Trunk Road from the Cross Crossing Interchange to Dumfries Road was also changed to 65 kilometres. There were also changes to 30 kilometres per hour in several areas around Curepe and Valsayn.

Persad’s attorneys said although the minister justified the imposition of new speed limits, he failed to provide details to shed light on the decision-making process.

“Transparency and accountability are essential pillars of good governance, particularly when it comes to matters as critical as road safety and traffic regulation.

“The absence of specific details in the minister’s response has left many questions unanswered and has contributed to a perception of opacity surrounding the derivation of speed limits.”

The letter said Persad understood the imposition of special speed limits was a crucial aspect of public safety on roads and highways.

“However, it is imperative that such decisions are made based on a thorough and transparent assessment of all available information, including engineering studies, statistical data on traffic flow and accident rates, and any other relevant factors that may impact road safety and traffic management.

“Personal liberty, which is guaranteed to every citizen under the Constitution, consisting of the right to locomotion, to go where one pleases, and when, and to do that which may lead to one’s business or pleasure, only so far, restrained as the rights of others may make it necessary for the welfare of all other citizens.

“The FOIA applicant firmly believes that speed limits play a pivotal role in ensuring road safety and traffic management.

“However, for these limits to be effective and legally sound, they must be grounded in empirical data, through analysis and expert assessment.”


"Activist wants data on speed-limit changes"

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