The trinidad Guardian / I am of the view that the optimal speed limit for the highways in T&T should not be raised to 100 kmph. This matter, which is soon to be debated in Parliament, is one of tremendous economic and socio-psychological import. Here are seven reasons why the speed limit on our highways should not be raised to 100 kmph:
COOLIN’ THE PACE
When the train and watch/chain became normalized in Europe, in the mid-19th century, they acted as a rigorous disciplining influence on commuters, and the society generally. The society began to move, breathe as it were, by the deadlines, schedules, time and speed of the train.
Speed sets the pace. As a society-on the verge of metropolitan ones which hustle and bustle all day long, leading to chronic disease, hypertension, heart attacks, diabetes-we ought to be cooling it, not increasing speed. Less speed exercises a calming, civilizing, less hostile influence and impact on our society, its psychology. Additionally, once the limit goes to 100 kmph, and drivers become habituated, it will be most difficult to lower in the future.
MORE CARNAGE NOT LESS
It is the case that setting a limit of 100 kmph will lead to more, and not less carnage on the roads. The evidence shows that the recent initiative to speedgun speed led to a decrease in serious accidents and deaths on the highways. It is very clear that speed kills, and more speed kills the more. All scientific journals and studies prove this. The police do not possess the wherewithal to ‘trap’ speed at the current 80 kmph limit; how much better will it fare at 100 kmph? In the absence of sufficient enforcement at the current limit, the speed ups to 100 and more; at a limit of 100 it will up to above 120.
THE EXISTING ROAD CULTURE
Road hoggism is a part of the culture of our roads, especially on the impersonal highways, where windows are wound up, drivers fly past, and you cannot see who is who. If two or three begin to practice this hoggism, just watch, soon you see a viral pack following. The critical speed soon tips over from 80 to 100 to 120. Hoggism breeds hostility, competition, exponentializes itself. It is a kind of devil take the hindmost, philistinism. In the hands of a roadhog, the car becomes a weapon, not an asset. This dangerous cultural practice needs to be restrained, disciplined, not rewarded. Additionally, our substantial number of national festival holidays tends to substantially increase reckless or drunken driving.
THE GEOPHYSICAL SYSTEM
The road conditions militate against an increase. There are always a number of ingresses and egresses, slipways etc, legal and illegal, on any stretch of highway in the Republic. Some stretches pass through built-up areas. There are some unnervingly chancy swings, where accidents have traditionally occurred, at Freeport, Claxton Bay, Gasparillo, for example. Our variable geophysical environment will become increasingly extreme. More floods, more rain, more slippery roads. We live on an island geophysical system; not a continental US freeway system.
DRIVING FOR ALL
The roads ought to be, like anywhere else, a democratic, civilised space. Many persons find it difficult to cope with the hostility of excess speed. Our formidable Big Mac trucks, disarticulated trailers, container trucks, 16 ton gravel trucks, buses, large pickups, some taxis, swishing past the elderly, or not so robust driver, pose an intimidating effect. Not everyone is robust. Most drivers are defensive minded. But the pelting of large vehicles at 100 kmph, when police are scarce, will retire many drivers off the road permanently. This ought not to be. Everyone, of whatever age of disposition, must be provided with fair, non-intimidatory use of highways.
MORE ECONOMIC STRESS
More speed means not only more stress. It means more wear and tear, more consumption of fuel, more vehicular damage, more litigation and insurance claims. It means more consumption of metals, gas, plastics, that is more mining of scarce planetary resources. More foreign exchange. More medical care. More funerals, coffins, death to persons with dependants. This is uneconomic. Minimal costs add up.
THE REAL SOLUTION
Why is there rushing on the roads? Aren’t we all going to the identical final place? We rush because we are terrified. We are terrified of traffic down the road. That is why we leave their homes very early. We are shoved into the desperation trap, the trap of ubiquitous traffic. This is the problem, the one that will take us to hell in a coconut shell. Lead us to paralysis and gridlock in 15 years. Already sheer car-volume exercises a clogging and bottle-neck effect on the roads. A well-considered system of public transportation, more clock-and-chain, more reliant on public buses, ferries, moderately priced, with strong routines and schedules, incrementally introduced, is the ultimate solution. Not vying to cure an endemic, chaotic problem with the salve of populism or expedience.
As long as enforcement remains insufficient; the cultural characteristics remain entrenched; the geophysical conditions are cast as they are; the prevailing socio-economic conditions, which lend to helter-skelter, persist; and the problem of extreme traffic along major arteries remain unsolved, the speed limit should not be dis-improved to 100 kmph. We must concede to restraint, discipline, science, optimal thresholds, genuine reform, the vulnerable, not cater to the frenetic and desperate impulses within us all.
Dr Wayne Kublalsingh