Story and photos by Kaelanne Jordan, firstname.lastname@example.org
After five years of planning, the country’s first road safety store is now open.
Nation Drivers Company Limited’s ‘The Road Safety Store’ officially opened for business January 5 at the San Juan Priority Bus Route Mall, Croisee.
Stanislaus ‘Stan’ Huggins, CEO of Nation Drivers and President of Trinidad and Tobago Road Safety Council said the store is “a dream come true” and the next step in his mission to intensify road safety.
Booth 24 located on the mall’s second floor offers defensive driving courses, L-plates, school crossing guard service, DVDs on road safety, ‘STOP’ signs, car seats, road safety cones—all locally made—among other road safety items.
The timeline for the store’s opening was opportune; just in time for Carnival, “a drink and drive season”.
“It was timely for the season because we recognise that after the parties, some people do not have designated drivers. They drive themselves highly intoxicated and get into accidents,” said Huggins, who prepares Catholic News’ fortnightly ‘On the Road’ road safety tips column.
He revealed there were some challenges faced prior to its opening, namely, the public was not interested in road safety. “But now that we recognise that the country is experiencing a high level of road carnage, the country is now thinking [road] safety.”
He explained, “They normally would think about occupational safety, but now they realise that the bulk of accidents happen on the public roads. I always make the statement ‘A car is like a weapon; it can kill just like a gun’ so we have to be mindful that a road accident is like a thief…it steals your life…. I always see a road death as a murder. I was normal and you just came and took my life like that. That’s murder.”
Huggins, a road safety consultant for over 20 years shared that many curious customers have visited, lamenting “they’ve never seen anything like this before” and “why did you come with this idea?”
The location for the country’s first road safety store was also carefully considered within the main hub of the East-West corridor. “It was thought out because this is a highly dense traffic area… There’s an old saying that the Croisee never sleeps and it really never sleeps.”
Huggins, a parishioner at St John the Baptist, St Augustine, is also urging parish priests to recommend road safety be inculcated in every parishioner’s household.
“I’m calling on parish priests to put it in their weekly bulletin to inform their parishioners to do a course in defensive driving…” he said.
Citing a lack of education in road safety as a sole contributor to road carnage, Huggins gave the example of traffic wardens and police officers who use hand signals to direct traffic, which he says is “wrong”. “…it has to go back to education. There’s a true statement that an educated driver is a better driver; an educated pedestrian is a better pedestrian; an educated passenger is a better passenger.”
“We are trying to get pedestrians to watch how they cross the street. Because as it is, the country is now crossing on the green light, which tells you that we are not into road safety…. Dogs get wiser than we. Dogs look right and left; dogs see it clear then dogs run across the street. We don’t do that….”
Huggins advocates that schools, parents, the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM), the National Parent Teachers’ Association and the Ministry of Works and Transport should all get involved to fund road safety in schools.
“Most principals got road safety when they were in school and I always ask them ‘Why aren’t you giving the children it?’ We’re teaching them Math and English but we’re not teaching them anything to save their lives, which is not good for the school system. That’s why we [have to] come together to see how we can make it easy for children to save their lives.”