Sun 3rd Sep 2006
The recent amendment to the Motor Vehicle and Road traffic Act mandates that the wearing of seatbelts and helmets is now law. This is welcome, but I wonder if the ULP regime has yet again put forward a half-hearted policy. Road safety for vehicle passengers and other road users ' pedestrians and cyclists ' is an important issue that has long been casually overlooked by successive governments.
Every year in SVG many people are injured or killed on our roads. Genuine accidents do happen, but the ULP government should have gone further to try to reduce stoppable causes of injuries and fatalities on the roads.
Speed It is not uncommon for vehicles on the road to be travelling at excessive speeds and we know that the faster a vehicle is travelling the longer it takes to stop. The law should have been updated at the same time to clamp down harder on speeding vehicles. As speeds go up, the severity of crashes goes up. Your percentage chances of surviving a collision if you are struck by a car while walking or cycling are:
20 mph 95%
30 mph 45%
40 mph 5%
Clearly vehicles driving over 40 mph are likely to cause fatalities if they hit people. In many parts of the country it is not clear what the speed limit is. There needs to be more speed limit signs so that people are aware of what the limits are. Random speed checks by the police would help tone down fast driving. Speed kills.
With the advent of mobile phones we are seeing the increase of dangerous driving of people, but now caused by drivers being distracted by talking or 'texting' on mobile phones. Sadly it is only when someone is killed that the problems associated with mobiles and driving are highlighted. In the UK it took seven years of car accidents, the example of 35 countries and a pile of scientific research for the government to accept what campaigners have argued all along: using mobile phones on the road can kill. In the USA, a Harvard study in 2003 claims that motorists using cell phones may have caused 2,600 deaths, 330,000 injuries and 1.5 million instances of property damage. Hands-free phone sets are available.
Driving while intoxicated
Dangerous driving is also caused by drivers intoxicated by alcohol or other drugs. The law against this should be stricter and greater enforcement and penalties are needed for people to take this more seriously. In 2004 in the UK, 590 people were killed in drink-drive related incidents, 2,350 people were seriously injured and there were over 17,000 drink-drive casualties. Breath testing to ascertain alcohol levels in drivers' blood should be a well used tool in the campaign for road safety.
A death caused by bad driving should be no different under the law from any other death caused by negligence or intent. In the UK, road crashes are the single biggest killer of school-age children, accounting for two-thirds of premature child deaths. Given the amount of children in SVG who walk to school, this ULP regime should have put forth a more holistic and stronger road traffic law. Human life should be valued.