Trini Drivers: Crazy or in Control?

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When I was asked to do this piece, I had just finished reading the Sunday Express and saw the article on Petal Dickie who lost her life in a vehicular accident in Marabella this past Saturday. It had been in my mind because a friend of mine had witnessed it first-hand, but honestly, I only felt melancholy when I could read the recounted details in hard copy.
So, another young life lost on our nation’s roadways, Is anyone surprised? While the details behind her death are still being investigated by the police (good luck Chuck!), one thing is sure. Someone broke the law. Is anyone surprised?
If you ask anyone over 40, they will quickly diagnose that age and inexperience on the road is to blame for road fatalities 99.9% of the time, and I don’t disagree what I contend is the origination of the reckless attitude. Don’t our own fathers and uncles laughingly recall ‘lucky’ times in their driving history? The time they reached home safely after drinking, but do not remember starting the ignition. The day they talked the cop out of a ticket after tearing down the highway, how ‘every man Jack’ was drunk one night, and they almost ran off the road.
On a daily basis they ‘sometimes’ pull their seatbelt, put on their indicator, make hand signals, and slow down when the light turns to amber. They shake their heads when they hear tragic details about another person’s child dying, yet they never think it could happen to them, and believe that their children will make better decisions, or at least get lucky.
Reckless driving used to be one of those nasty, recessive, generational habits, like ‘colonialistic bigotry’ and party loyalty; but today, we’ve become a nation of ‘H’-car drivers.
If you’re Trini, you’re nodding and ‘steupsing’. We’ve become impatient, hurdling blocks of metal that can squeeze into the next flow of traffic the second before the light goes yellow to red or do a three-point turn in the middle of a major street.  We’re irreverent of the law and each other, and think that if you can’t “read” traffic, meaning you’re unable to predict the next moves of the cars in front, behind and the sides of you, then you shouldn’t be allowed on the road! A little more than a decade ago this was behaviour to admonish. Today, it’s safe driving that can get you cursed out.
Even though I have no vehicle of my own, I really appreciate those ‘Arrive Alive’ signs on the highway that flash that last sentiment. While I grip onto the upholstery in my taxi, I pray that the driver gets a glance at that sign and considers it. When I’m really scared, I ask him to slow down, joking that I know it isn’t as exciting or challenging, while thinking, “Explain that to my parents when I’m dead!”
Do you know the joke that traffic signals and speed limits in T&T are not laws, only ‘suggestions’? Will you still smile if it was one of your own who died, because someone else broke the law? Ok, we don’t have to get dramatic by pulling out the ‘death card’, so if you love your car more than your life, wouldn’t it really really suck if someone smashed your bumper because they didn’t see you signal? Or you hit them because you were so close you could see what radio station they were on.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could have safer, more comfortable rides on our roads, and you didn’t have to worry about someone hitting your baby, your girl, and you? It’s possible!  The sad news is… you might have to slow down.
I still remember that phone call I got at 8 o’clock one morning almost two years ago, the caller asking if I was alright. Alright? Why wouldn’t I be okay? My reluctant friend had to break the news that my 23-year-old cousin had died earlier that morning in a car accident on the highway. A few hours and many tears later, more details came. The car had caught on fire. He wasn’t alone. I was also friends with the driver who had also perished.  One morning, hours after enjoying a night at Zen, safe in the company of two good friends, tired and sleeping in the backseat, my cousin broke his neck and burned in a car accident… all three of them joining our road fatalities statistic.
Even after two years I still get tearful recounting this memory. The toxicology report cleared suspicions of drunk driving, but given the time of day and their prior activities, it is without doubt that fatigue had a part to play in their untimely deaths. Friends who know cars have confirmed that most likely it was the speed at impact that caused the car to catch on fire. While none of us can be sure, it is my gut feeling that they would’ve had a better chance of walking away from such an accident if they had been driving slower.
Our family too thought that it could have never happened to us. The families of my cousin’s late friends, Petal Dickie, and the hundred more victims who will make the papers probably thought the same. You think the same when you figure there’s only ten or more minutes between you and home, although your ‘head bad’, and your gut is telling you you’re taking a risky chance.
Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. In this case, it is the expectation that our repeated road offences will continue to lead to unpredictable, yet safe outcomes, which is madness.

When I was asked to do this piece, I had just finished reading the Sunday Express and saw the article on Petal Dickie who lost her life in a vehicular accident in Marabella this past Saturday. It had been in my mind because a friend of mine had witnessed it first-hand, but honestly, I only felt melancholy when I could read the recounted details in hard copy.

So, another young life lost on our nation’s roadways, Is anyone surprised? While the details behind her death are still being investigated by the police (good luck Chuck!), one thing is sure. Someone broke the law. Is anyone surprised?

If you ask anyone over 40, they will quickly diagnose that age and inexperience on the road is to blame for road fatalities 99.9% of the time, and I don’t disagree what I contend is the origination of the reckless attitude. Don’t our own fathers and uncles laughingly recall ‘lucky’ times in their driving history? The time they reached home safely after drinking, but do not remember starting the ignition. The day they talked the cop out of a ticket after tearing down the highway, how ‘every man Jack’ was drunk one night, and they almost ran off the road.

On a daily basis they ‘sometimes’ pull their seatbelt, put on their indicator, make hand signals, and slow down when the light turns to amber. They shake their heads when they hear tragic details about another person’s child dying, yet they never think it could happen to them, and believe that their children will make better decisions, or at least get lucky.

Reckless driving used to be one of those nasty, recessive, generational habits, like ‘colonialistic bigotry’ and party loyalty; but today, we’ve become a nation of ‘H’-car drivers.

If you’re Trini, you’re nodding and ‘steupsing’. We’ve become impatient, hurdling blocks of metal that can squeeze into the next flow of traffic the second before the light goes yellow to red or do a three-point turn in the middle of a major street.  We’re irreverent of the law and each other, and think that if you can’t “read” traffic, meaning you’re unable to predict the next moves of the cars in front, behind and the sides of you, then you shouldn’t be allowed on the road! A little more than a decade ago this was behaviour to admonish. Today, it’s safe driving that can get you cursed out.

Even though I have no vehicle of my own, I really appreciate those ‘Arrive Alive’ signs on the highway that flash that last sentiment. While I grip onto the upholstery in my taxi, I pray that the driver gets a glance at that sign and considers it. When I’m really scared, I ask him to slow down, joking that I know it isn’t as exciting or challenging, while thinking, “Explain that to my parents when I’m dead!”

Do you know the joke that traffic signals and speed limits in T&T are not laws, only ‘suggestions’? Will you still smile if it was one of your own who died, because someone else broke the law? Ok, we don’t have to get dramatic by pulling out the ‘death card’, so if you love your car more than your life, wouldn’t it really really suck if someone smashed your bumper because they didn’t see you signal? Or you hit them because you were so close you could see what radio station they were on.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have safer, more comfortable rides on our roads, and you didn’t have to worry about someone hitting your baby, your girl, and you? It’s possible!  The sad news is… you might have to slow down.

I still remember that phone call I got at 8 o’clock one morning almost two years ago, the caller asking if I was alright. Alright? Why wouldn’t I be okay? My reluctant friend had to break the news that my 23-year-old cousin had died earlier that morning in a car accident on the highway. A few hours and many tears later, more details came. The car had caught on fire. He wasn’t alone. I was also friends with the driver who had also perished.  One morning, hours after enjoying a night at Zen, safe in the company of two good friends, tired and sleeping in the backseat, my cousin broke his neck and burned in a car accident… all three of them joining our road fatalities statistic.

Even after two years I still get tearful recounting this memory. The toxicology report cleared suspicions of drunk driving, but given the time of day and their prior activities, it is without doubt that fatigue had a part to play in their untimely deaths. Friends who know cars have confirmed that most likely it was the speed at impact that caused the car to catch on fire. While none of us can be sure, it is my gut feeling that they would’ve had a better chance of walking away from such an accident if they had been driving slower.

Our family too thought that it could have never happened to us. The families of my cousin’s late friends, Petal Dickie, and the hundred more victims who will make the papers probably thought the same. You think the same when you figure there’s only ten or more minutes between you and home, although your ‘head bad’, and your gut is telling you you’re taking a risky chance.

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. In this case, it is the expectation that our repeated road offences will continue to lead to unpredictable, yet safe outcomes, which is madness.

 

 

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Quilin Achat

Quilin Achat is an avid lover of reading, so it's no surprise that she runs a small, unconventional bookstore called The Fire is Lit, in San Fernando. Check out the Fire is Lit at http://facebook.com/theFireisLit.

1 Comment

  1. Desa

    January 31, 2011 at 2:03 am

    Thanks for sharing Q. It’s crazy! While I drive constantly in the US, I’m always too scared to drive at home. I honestly prefer to travel (maxi, car, bus, water-taxi), rather than driving and even then – I’m still mindful of the roads and other drivers. The roads can be a dangerous place and drivers/pedestrians (both young and old) need to realize that they’re not invincible.

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