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Electronic speed detection coming to catch ‘reckless’ drivers

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

Motorists, be warned.  The speed traps are being replaced by electronic speed detection devices to catch “reckless” drivers.

For almost three years the Police Service, “as much as they would want to try, has charged no one in Trinidad and Tobago for speeding,” Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz revealed. But no more of this.

 Cadiz yesterday piloted Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) bill which seeks to “bring some sanity to the road” by authorising the use of electronic speed detection devices by police officers and special reserve officers and to allow the admissibility of evidence in court in connection with the use of such devices. “This is going to be a major change in the way we control what goes on on our roads,” he said.

“People in Trinidad and Tobago, the same way they learn to wear safety belt; the same way they learn not to drink and drive, (at least many of them, not all of them); the same way they learn not to use their cellphone while driving; people now have to learn what a speed limit is. Because the police are going to be out there, ready and waiting for you and yuh going to get fined,” the Minister said. “If you are caught speeding you will be charged,” he added.

He said one other benefit is that several police officers would not be required to attend court for the purpose of leading evidence in a simple speeding case. He said the device itself would have all the data—the date, time, place of the offence, the licence plate, the speed—and the printed out would look like a credit card slip.

He said a number of associations such as Arrive Alive, Trinidad and Tobago Beverage Alcohol Alliance,  the Police Service, UWI Students Guild, Association of Insurance Companies have lobbied the Government for this legislation.

Cadiz said excessive speed was identified as the main contributing factor in 55 per cent of road fatalities, according to the Police. He said the payout by the insurance industry is $400 million annually as a result of vehicular accidents. Then there are the continuing costs of persons who are physically disabled, breadwinners who can no longer work as a result of injuries from accidents, not to mention the medical costs involved.

Cadiz said traditionally a “primitive method”, a speed trap, which required a lamp-post, a mango tree or coconut tree, some piece of galvanise that the police man could hide behind, a gazette paper, a stop watch and four police officers, was used to catch drivers breaking the speed limit. But the speed traps  could only be operated safely for the police officers on single lane or two lane highways. But with the country having three and four lane highways, which police office is going to fly out from the mango tree and skate across three lanes of the highway to stop the car speeding on the far right? They can’t!”, he said.

Cadiz said there had been a down trend in road deaths. He said in 2011 there were 181 road fatalities, 286 serious injuries; 2012 there were 193 road deaths, 340 serious injuries and 2013, there were a drop to 152 road deaths. He said for this year there were 41 road deaths as of March 19 compared with 45 last year during the same period.  “Without a doubt we are trending in the right direction and that is not by vaps,” he said, giving credit to the former administration for the seat belts and breathalyser Acts. 

He noted that “every single week we read of these unfortunate accidents,” he said. He said under the old system, during a four-year period some 44,800 speeding tickets were issued. He said one could imagine how many speeding tickets would be issued under the easier system of electronic detection.                  See Page 9.

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