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Police: Zero tolerance for young drivers

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

A ZERO TOLERANCE approach to alcohol consumption for young drivers needs to be implemented, said SRP Brent Batson, coordinator of the Police Service Safety Project.

Batson made the statement yesterday as he appeared at the Police Service’s weekly press briefing at Police Head quarters, Sackville Street, Port of Spain, alongside public information officer Sgt Wayne Mystar.

Trinidad and Tobago’s legal limit for alcohol consumption while driving is 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath.

The limit is set across the board for all drivers.

Batson called on Government to lower this legal limit for young drivers, aged between 17 to 21 years, to as little as eight microgrammes.

Batson said a legal limit of eight microgrammes for young drivers would be equivalent to “not consuming alcohol at all”.

He called on the legal limit to also be lowered for “truck and taxi drivers”.

Some 1,064 people were killed in road traffic accidents between the period 2008 to 2012, according to statistics from the Police Service.

Research by Professor Godfrey St Bernard revealed that 46 per cent of those who were killed in road traffic accidents over that period were aged between 15 to 34 years, which works out to 489 people in that age group.

Last Sunday, four adolescents—twin sisters Khadijah and Khertima Taylor, Kalifa Gill and Chris Sooko—lost their lives in two separate road accidents.

This has pushed the road fatality figure to 79 for the year.

The driver of the car involved in the crash that claimed the lives of the Taylor twins and Gill was not “over” the legal alcohol limit, Batson said.
“Alcohol affects younger drivers’ risk perception different than it affects older drivers,” he added.

In this regard, Batson called for “zero tolerance to young drivers”.

He slammed suggestions for the age limit for drivers to be increased from 17 years.

“It is not a good idea. It is not best practice.”

Batson said international best practice calls for limits to be imposed on young drivers, including time restrictions (on when young drivers can be on the road).

He said special licence plates with varying colours would be used to help the police identify who would be subject to restrictions.

“Driving is a practical task. It takes practice to get better,” Batson said.

He cautioned parents about imposing curfews on their children when they lend them their vehicles.

What you find happening, he said, is when parents give their children a curfew of 2 a.m. to return home, the child leaves the club at 1.45 a.m. and races to reach home on time.

Batson called on parents to have a more conversational approach in order to prevent unnecessary pressure on the young drivers.

As rainy season approaches, Batson urged drivers to test their tyres to help prevent unnecessary road accidents. He called on commuters to refuse to enter any taxis with smooth tyres.

“Do a walk around, check on the vehicles yourself,” Batson said.
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