Trinidad and Tobago has the second highest road fatality figure in the world. This shocking revelation was made by Angela Francke, German transportation psychologist from the University of Dresden. The figures, Francke stated, were approximately 200 deaths a year, which means that within a six-month period 100 Trinbagonians die in road accidents.
In 2008, there were 214 road fatalities-77 per cent were males and 23 per cent were females, according a World Health Organization (WHO) report. The traffic expert also reported that the majority of crash victims were not the occupants of motorised vehicles, but pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists.
Francke said: "This problem is largely due to the fact that road safety is not taken seriously by most drivers in T&T." Her report stated that four-wheelers accounted for 34 per cent of pedestrian road fatalities and 28 per cent of passenger deaths. She compared these figures to the United States, as she stated four wheelers accounted for 31 per cent of the road fatalities.
Francke remarked: "T&T is much smaller in proportion to the US, and the fatality risk factor is 15.4 fatalities per 100,000 of the population for T&T." She indicated that the risk factor is not the highest worldwide, "but considering the small population, it is ridiculously high." She added: "World Bank Statistics named Latin America and the Caribbean as the regions that currently hold the record for the highest per capita road traffic fatality rate of any region in the world."
T&T was streamlined as having the highest traffic fatality rate in the Caribbean for the past seven years, which placed this country second in the world. Francke attributed this partly to the fact that T&T has one of the highest number of registered vehicles and car occupancy per household, worldwide.
She cited a study completed by WHO which stated that over 90 per cent of the world's road fatalities occur in low-income and middle-income countries, which only had 48 per cent of the world's vehicles. "In T&T, road safety laws are plentiful, yet enforcement is low. On a scale of zero to ten, where ten measured most effective, T&T was rated at two for enforcement of drinking and driving and speed limit laws by WHO," Francke added.
She said: "It is important to enforce laws once they are established as they have the objective high numbers of road fatalities. There should be training of the police staff, about the high level of seriousness of this issue." Francke stressed the need for more work to be done to deal with road safety in T&T. She said crashes may cost approximately three per cent of a country's annual Gross Domestic Product so there is economic cause for concern in addition to loss of lives.
She said there should be proper implementation of a road safety plan, institutional safety and responsibility, proper monitoring and evaluation, public safety and road education programmes, and maintaining higher vehicle standards in addition to proper enforcement of road traffic laws.