Road safety again
Thursday, July 5 2012
EVEN in the midst of the national animation being generated by the recent ministerial re-configuration — widely seen as a reshuffle — and the new portfolios given to several ministers, the Chamber makes no apologies for returning to the topic of road safety.
We believe that every death and serious injury on the road is horrific and unacceptable, no matter what the reason for the occurrence. We hope that by consistently adding our voice to the many others being raised against the carnage on our roads, somehow, a change in behaviour will be realised.
Approximately 80 people have lost their lives in 2012 to vehicular accidents. In the most recent shocking case, a vehicle ploughed into a roadside bar, killing two people outside and three others inside. Those who are familiar with the area where it happened on the Eastern Main Road, know it is a narrow crossroads, regulated by traffic lights. It is quite obvious that speed was involved, to bring about the type of crash that occurred.
The euphemism “loss of control”, is often used to cover a range of violations, from intoxication, speed, vehicles that are not roadworthy or any combination of these and other factors. Now, the driver who “lost control” in that accident is facing multiple charges relating to the loss of five lives.
We often call for more stringent enforcement of our laws, and indeed, greater effort needs to be made in this regard. However, policing cannot be viewed as the be-all and end-all of combating road deaths. The reality is that users must also take full responsibility for what happens on the roadways.
Drinking and driving, excessive speed, speeding up when the lights turn amber, breaking the red light, reckless overtaking indiscriminate switching of lanes, failure to signal your intentions, using hand-held cellphones, driving on sidewalks and not ensuring that vehicles are roadworthy are all common wrongdoings that have unfortunately become part of our driving culture and persist despite the high incidence of death from vehicular accidents.
Having become the holder of a driver’s permit, each driver must exhibit a duty of care which includes not only obeying the law but exhibiting due care, caution and courtesy to ensure the safety of themselves and others. Without this personal responsibility, police officers, cable barriers, cameras and speed bays can only do so much.
The passengers in motor vehicles, whether taxis or privately owned, can also play a part in curbing the enthusiasm of errant drivers, and it is a message that each and every one should take to heart.
Pedestrians too, need to learn to take responsibility for their own safety. Jaywalking is common, as it is to see drivers and pedestrians jostling for right of way, and children are left to emulate the bad habits demonstrated by their elders.
Without a doubt, there is need for reform. For example, there is urgent need to amend legislation to allow for use of radar timing devices and electronic ticketing. Further, there should be increased penalties for the wide range of crimes and infractions which commonly occur on our roads. For too long, bad driving habits have been allowed to fester, with the result that we now need enforcement and instruction. We just cannot allow the carnage to continue.