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Highway and traffic safety


Philip G. Lewis

Highway and traffic safety

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FOR SOME TIME now, on my return visits to Barbados over the last two years or so, I have been observing the driving habits of motorists, the condition of the highway network and the general lack of enforcement of the traffic laws.

I have read with much interest the reports on the many serious traffic collisions (accidents are no longer used in my field) which have resulted in a number  of deaths, some multiple, and other serious injuries  as a result of these collisions.

First let me state that I am a trained, certified  and qualified traffic collision investigator, crash reconstructionist, advanced pursuit level driver, driving instructor and court-accepted expert in the field of traffic collision investigation and reconstruction with over 30 years’ experience.

There are basically three accepted tenets of highway safety, which can be divided into many other  sub-groups and some even overlap. These are education, engineering and enforcement – the three  Es as they are called.

Anytime the question of road safety is addressed, these three areas should be looked at individually and see where each can be improved on for the betterment of the collective whole (society).

I can write a double thesis on each aspect,  but I will briefly touch on each of these from my observations.

Education

There needs to be a coordinated and concerted effort by the major stakeholders in this area. These will include, but are not limited to, the Government, the insurance companies, the Road Safety Association, the police, the Press and the public. There may be other special groups such as the motor racing clubs and bicycle associations.

The message should be relevant, concise and informative, and targeted to a specific audience, if such is the case. For example, texting whilst  driving, drinking and driving and excessive speed can be the focus of such an educational blitz targeting the 18 to 45 age groups.

However, all parties must sing the same song, so to speak. There cannot be different messages sent by the different entities. There can be a series of messages targeting specific areas of road safety, but the idea is that there has to be a greater emphasis placed on education.

All methods of modern-day communication should  be utilised, including social media in collaboration with the cellphone networks where pop-up road safety messages can be sent to subscribers as they do with their promotions.

Engineering

This obviously will be the greater challenge  as there are always financial costs associated with altering or changing certain roadways, junctions or traffic configurations and the effects can be or are  far-reaching and long term. But there are many  “low-hanging fruits” that can be picked in this area.

Here are some which I think are relevant to Barbados: additional street lighting on the highways and all major roads; regular upkeep of lane markings, traffic signs, pedestrian crossings and so on; clearing and/or trimming of overgrown trees and foliage from roadways, making it easier for drivers to see the road edge; the installation of “cat eyes” and other  retro-reflective devices along some roads as lane dividers and road edge delineators; resurfacing  of trenched roads within 48 hours and resurfacing some dangerous sections of known roads with “anti-skid” material.

The crude filling in of recently-trenched roads with marl or other similar material is most dangerous, especially when done after bends or on poorly-lit roads, often with no prior warning for motorists.

Utility companies should be mandated by law, under severe penalties, to resurface the roadway they excavated to a condition that is equal to or better than they found it. This also includes Government entities such as the Barbados Water Authority. Heavy rains soon make a bad condition worse.

Enforcement

The police and other authorities should be provided with the tools and training to carry out this very important community mandate.

In most jurisdictions, the majority of the population is law-abiding and therefore should not be held hostage by the minority who see it as their right to flout laws, be it traffic or any other.

However, from a traffic perspective, modern speed lasers, more police motorcyclists, breathalysers and  the introduction of a moving traffic violation ticketing system will greatly improve and modernise this area.

Updated or new legislation needs to be introduced to deal with cellphone use, drunk driving and unlicensed and/or uninsured vehicles. Powers to impound for these offences (uninsured/unlicensed) should be mandatory.

There is much more I can say but will leave  for a part two where I will tackle driving behaviours,  or lack thereof.

­­­- Philip G. Lewis

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