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Making roadways safe
Reacting to an unacceptable upsurge in vehicular accidents and resultant fatalities, the Government has established a National Road Safety Council (NRSC) and is embarking on the implementation of a driver’s education programme in schools.
While these measures are encouraging, I hope that the benefits yielded will be at a much quicker pace than the crash-barrier installations at various points along the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway. As a driver and pedestrian I feel obligated to proffer the following initiatives in the hope that the newly formed NRSC may find salient aspects to employ.
The foremost issue that must be addressed if the authorities are serious about curbing road accidents/deaths must be law enforcement. Too many of us break traffic lights, drive way in excess of the speed limit, drive on the shoulder of the highway, stop in the middle of the road to chat with another driver proceeding in the opposite direction—both blocking traffic.
Getting away with too many traffic violations has “spoiled” us, spurning a generation of road hogs that maim and take lives. Consequently, it is reasonable to state that some road accidents/fatalities are symptomatic of poor traffic law enforcement.
More CCTV surveillance cameras should be installed at intersections and at strategic points along highways, major roads and one-way streets. I have seen these on the Priority Bus Route but with the number of drivers that “take a chance” on the route every day, I’ve concluded that the cameras are insufficient, switched off, not monitored or any combination thereof.
In the absence of police officers, the proper use of the cameras will aid in bringing errant drivers to justice, and so this initiative must be enforced. Following spikes in the murder rate, citizens are usually reminded that they can provide information anonymously, which, if leading to the capture/conviction of a perpetrator, will yield a reward. Why not institute a similar incentive for addressing traffic violations?
People generally don’t see a drunken man behind a steering wheel as being in the same category of a robber wheeling a gun. But when we consider a truck or SUV crossing the median and heading into a carload of innocent people, we recognise that a vehicle can be a drunken driver’s weapon, making him as culpable as the robber that pulls the trigger.
Another potential life-saving incentive is directly attributed to response times: how soon after an accident can medical attention be administered to victims. Many of us have heard stories or even know of someone who would have likely survived an accident/trauma had he/she been taken to a hospital sooner.
It follows that a quicker response solution is required. Wouldn’t the acquisition of two air ambulances fill that void? Surely these can be afforded when saving lives is justification. Those of us who legitimately obtained our driver’s permit were taught to adhere to the related rules and regulations and to drive with courtesy. But some best practices may have fallen away over time for many of us, and so it seems prudent to include defensive driving as a component to bring us back on the right track.
So committing a serious traffic offence or multiple lesser offences should, in addition to set penalties, attract a corrective element. This is where it should be made mandatory for such offenders to take a defensive driving course and pass the exam before retaining his/her driving permit and being allowed to drive again.
Conversely, encouragement should be given to law-abiding drivers to do the defensive driving course. The incentive will be in presenting proof of passing the driving exam within one year before renewing one’s permit, thus qualifying him/her for a 50 per cent discount on renewal.
In summary, the NRSC’s initiatives must be informed by the existing trends that contribute to the present road safety dilemma. Only then the journey to effectively minimise loss of life and limb on the nation’s highways and byways would have begun.
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