Talk about a Government that knows how to turn a good thing bad and immediately the administration of Dr. Keith Rowley comes to mind.
For some reason, it lacks the ability to roll out a properly-well thought out plan well, and rather than reap the rewards and collect the political mileage for a job well done, heaps of scorn are poured on their execution and this is because of the narrow-mindedness of this PNM administration headed by Keith Christopher Rowley.
A perfect example is the Red Light Camera System designed to photograph all vehicles that break the red light and generate a notice with a specific fine that will be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.
This is not a bad idea, as a matter of fact, most road users have been desperately waiting for an initiative of this nature and saw it as a strategy to reduce the carnage that takes place daily on our roads.
Everyone knows by now that far too many of our drivers display a road hog attitude, are indiscriminate in the way they proceed and have no respect for the traffic laws that have been enacted to govern the way we use the roads in the country.
So, when the Government proposed this Red Light Camera System, many of us felt that the nail on the head was struck and at least come General Election time there will be one deliverable of which it can boast and with which the people could identify.
However, after talking about this for so long, we are to hear the news that only 35 traffic lights will be installed with cameras throughout Trinidad and Tobago and what is even worse, only 15 traffic lights installed with cameras will be operable when the Ministry of Works & Transport launches its programme.
There is no way that we could believe that this Government is serious about road safety or about anything for that matter if everything it proposes to do is piecemeal that exacerbates rather than reduces the problems we face.
Now there are many things that are wrong with that announcement.
If the Government wants to roll out this Red Light Camera System, the last thing it would want to do is to tell the people that cameras will not be placed at every traffic light, and worse than that tell them at which traffic light it will be placed.
If the Government had a modicum of common sense, it would have adopted an approach similar to the City of New York which in the introduction of their camera system placed shells in certain areas until they had enough revenue to replace them with real cameras and many were surprised how this approach improved road use in that City for years.
Why would you advertise that all the traffic lights will not be installed with cameras and then foolishly proceed to tell the road hogs at which traffic light they could afford to drive safely and at which traffic lights they could proceed to ignore regulations since there are no instruments to capture their bad behavior?
Another faux pas is that clearly a proper assessment was not undertaken before a decision was made to determine at which traffic lights these cameras should be installed.
If we wanted to have a limited launch, the best approach would have been to target the urban/suburban centers of the country where the volume of traffic is the highest and the relative frequency of committing infractions is at its worst.
I am shocked that the traffic lights at Mendez Drive and Mt. D’Or Road were not among the lights targeted for installation, because every driver using the Eastern Main Road in the morning can attest to the fact that hundreds of drivers run these lights daily from Monday to Friday between the hours of 6:00 am – 9:00 am.
I stood at the junction of Eastern Main Road and Mendez Drive one morning after a driver who broke the light almost rammed my vehicle. I counted seven vehicles before him that went through the red light and was further shocked that he too decided to break the light after it was on full red for so long.
This forced me to take a closer look and to my consternation, every time the light changed at this junction, between three to eight vehicles would run the light from the Eastern Main Road end and two to five vehicles coming out of Mendez Road would also run the light.
This is damning statistics and if the Ministry of Works and Transport had done its job, there is no way that this traffic would not have made it within the 15 when the Government decided to roll out this programme.
Other areas where drivers and pedestrians are at risk are at the corners of minor roads and not so much the highways because on the highways many are fearful of the dangerous, speeding vehicles; and this is why the Government should have first focused on the minor roads in our country.
I am from Port of Spain and I am sure Southerners and persons from the Central and Eastern areas would have their own list, but the Ministry of Works and Transport ought to have considered as priority the following locations: the traffic light at Belmont Circular Road around the Savannah, lights where pedestrians have to cross, Wrightson Road by T&TEC, Wrightson Road higher up by the Licensing Office and the junction at Maraval and Tragarete Road by the gas station. These are some of the places where I pass by almost every day and I see breaches all the time.
But much thought was not put into this because the real crisis is not running the red light but the choices drivers make when the light moves from red to yellow because this is where the greater danger lies.
If the real goal of this initiative is curbing the current culture on the roads that part of the strategy would have been to locate traffic lights about 15-20 feet from the white line where vehicles are supposed to stop. This would achieve a major objective and remove the threat of an accident by misjudgement.
This Red Light Camera System exposes the narrowness of thought that exists in Government. It shows that this Rowley administration lacks thinkers, innovators, people with a solution-oriented focus who are stifling progress in our country.
This will be no different than the launch of the radar gun where the Government informed its citizens about its limited quantity, its inability to set up speed traps around the country and the result is that once people know where the speed traps are set, they are free to travel at exorbitant speeds because they know the number of radar guns we have.
We cannot continue voting in asinine leaders into Government and not expect donkey logic.
This Red Light Camera System is a great idea gone wrong and one that in its current form would never make our roads safe, ever.