Trinidad: 21 killed in road accidents

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Trinidad: 21 killed in road accidents
Emergency responders at the crash site on Saturday.
Emergency responders at the crash site on Saturday.

(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) — TTPS Road Safety Coordinator PC Brent Batson today disclosed some astonishing statistics that appears to show that many citizens have learnt nothing over the past years about road safety.

He said that 21 people have already been killed on the roads so far, which is a 133 per cent increase from the comparative period last year.

More than 4,000 people have been ticketed for speeding and more than 400 people have been charged with drunk driving.

According to Batson, with just 11 days to the official start of Carnival 2019, I have been asked to provide an update on Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs), coming off the past weekend in which several persons lost their lives in vehicular accidents, as well as provide some road safety tips for motorists, passengers and pedestrians.

From Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th February, 2019, seven persons lost their lives in RTAs across the country.

Around 12:30am, Thursday 14th February, 2019, 67-year-old Jessica Martin, of St. Lucien Road, Diego Martin, was killed when the vehicle in which she was a passenger, was struck by a vehicle whose driver broke a red light, at the intersection of Sierra Leone Road and the Diego Martin Highway.

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On Friday 15th February, 2019, 60-year-old, Michael Henry, a pensioner, of Wallerfield Road, Arima, was killed when he was fatally struck by a motor vehicle, while attempting to cross the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway.

On Saturday 16th February, 2019, 26-year-old fire officer Kerwin Duncan and 29-year-old Dwayne Dick, both of Edinburgh 500, Chaguanas, 33-year-old Deon Burkette, of Chase Village and 40year-old Rae Cipeo, of Carlsen Field, all died when the vehicle in which they were travelling in slammed into a utility pole in Longdenville district.

Then, on Sunday 17th February, 2019, in Tobago, 63-year-old Wayne Slater, of Mount St. George, was killed after he lost control of the vehicle he was driving and crashed into the concrete median at the Auchenskeoch roundabout. He died at the scene. Again, seven lives lost in road accidents in four day across the country.

The common theme in all these deadly RTAs is their highly preventable nature; if a driver was wearing his seatbelt, if a driver had obeyed a red traffic signal and stopped their vehicle instead of trying to speed up on an amber light, if a driver had obeyed the posted roadway speed limit of 50 kilometers per hour, if a pedestrian had not attempted to cross a highway where vehicles travel at a speed of 100 kilometers per hour, these persons may still be alive.

These tragedies are exactly what we as public safety officers aim to prevent. In all our enforcement and education efforts, our goal is to save lives and keep families together.

The seven deaths over the weekend have catapulted the road death figure in Trinidad & Tobago to 21 to date for 2019, compared to nine for the corresponding period in 2018. This represents an increase in road deaths by 133%, comprising of six (6) drivers; ten (10) passengers and five (5) pedestrians.

It is the first time we have seen passengers being the largest category of road deaths, accounting for 48% of fatalities.

There is a clear disconnect between drivers and the images of carnage which surface after these fatal RTAs; of vehicles ripped apart due to high impact crash energy and human bodies amputated and avulsed, lying bleeding on the roadways. There is a strange belief among drivers that they themselves aren’t part of the problem.

Imagine on Friday last, another officer and I had to stop and ticket a driver who ran a red light while talking on his cell phone in front of the police vehicle. This even after two persons were killed in the recent truck and bus collision.

How many tickets do we have to write for drivers to understand the critical need to drive motor vehicles in a safe and responsible manner?

Already for 2019, 4,064 fixed penalty notices were issued to drivers for exceeding speed limits and 361 drivers were arrested and charged for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offences by Highway Patrol and Divisional Traffic Teams.

Just over the weekend, Highway Patrol officers arrested a driver with a reading of 167, which is almost five times over the legal limit of 35 and a check of the records uncovered that this was his second offence.

Who knows how many lives officers may have saved with that arrest?

We need the support of all road users to exercise safe and responsible road use.

We wish to thank all the soca artistes for coming on board to support our “Wrong Mix” iRoadsafe Anti-Drinking and Driving Carnival Campaign. These artist want you to enjoy yourselves at their events and return home safely to your families.

As Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith said…

“If yuh tight yuh can’t drive right”, so please don’t Drink and Drive. It’s not worth it.

Drivers should also heed the recent communication from the Judiciary indicating that the Magistrates’ Courts will not be operating on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. This means if you are arrested over the Carnival period for a DUI, there is the possibility of staying in the police holding cells until Ash Wednesday.

We also wish to remind drivers of the dangers of fatigued or tired driving. Two of the major fatal incidents suggested the possibility that the drivers fell asleep at the wheel.

In traffic safety, tired drivers are considered even more dangerous than drunk drivers, as it results in total loss of vehicle control.

We are aware some persons are partying into the early hours of the morning and then driving to work with as little as three to four hours sleep. These situations result in a sleep deprivation condition which severely impairs a driver’s physical and cognitive functions, negatively affecting judgment, decision making and reaction times.

We are therefore appealing to drivers to pay attention to how tired they may be feeling and if they believe they are too tired to continue their journey. Stop in a safe location and take a 15 minute nap. A safe location can be a mall car park, gas station or even at a police station. If the latter, please inform the officers in the charge room of the situation first.

Please also consider staying at friend’s place or a guest house, instead of trying to drive long distances. Passengers should always try to stay awake with their drivers, as sleep can be contagious in a vehicle.

As part of the TTPS road safety operations, there will be roving DUI teams from the Highway Patrol Units, as well as in the Port of Spain and Western Divisions, with certified breath alcohol technicians ready to test drivers on the spot where possible impairment is suspected. So please designate your driver, call a friend or utilize taxi or ride share services.

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