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January 11, 2023

Road safety, social justice, and national development

SOCIAL JUSTICE – rcsocialjustice.org

By Amílcar Sanatan

CCSJ Board member

For 2022, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) noted an alarming increase in accident-related deaths on the nation’s roadways. A rise in the number of road fatalities, DUI (driving under the influence) arrests and the issue of over 23,000 tickets for drivers’ failure to wear seatbelts illustrate the risk drivers pose to other drivers and pedestrians on roads.

TTPS Road Safety Coordinator, Sgt Brent Batson, attributed the source of the problem to drivers’ consumption of alcohol at events which have been more available since the reopening of the economy in this post-pandemic environment.

While this point identifies why drivers may illegally drive with very high levels of alcohol, “recklessness on de road” is rooted in a larger development problem in Trinidad and Tobago and some countries throughout the Caribbean and Americas region.

Road safety is a global goal for sustainable development. The United Nations identified road safety as a target by 2030. The goal aims to reduce global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by half and provide access to safe, affordable, and sustainable transportation systems for all, notably, expanding access to quality public transportation with special attention to women, children, older people, and people living with disabilities.

Inclusive societies have dynamic transportation systems, which often includes quality public transportation. Additionally, individual, and public responsibility in road safety is important to developing a fair, just, and equal society.

The fact of the matter is that cost of a weak transportation system is fatally high for citizens of any country. It worsens already existing social inequalities, reduces spatial mobility, places a burden on the health care system and increases the costs of national security for traffic-related matters.

More seriously, the ultimate cost of “bad driving” and poorly designed road and street networks is death.

Island City Lab has explored underlying reasons that drive the prevalence of road fatalities in Kingston and St Andrew, Jamaica. Island City Lab puts forward that the major factor for road fatalities on the island is road and street network design.

Their 2022 report opens, “With almost 500 persons killed in motor vehicle-related crashes in 2021, last year was the most violent year for road users across Jamaica in nearly 20 years. Each year since 2018 has been progressively [deadlier] on our roads despite pandemic lockdowns. Road crashes injure more than 10,000 persons annually and cost the country an average of 3.2 billion [Jamaican dollars]. The standard policy response is hyper-focused on addressing road user behavior by expanding enforcement and investing in education campaigns that promote safer road use. These are important initiatives, but they have not adequately addressed the increasing carnage on our roads; and completely miss a significant factor, street design.”

As governments continue to raise awareness about road safety for drivers and pedestrians simultaneously developing fast speed lanes for roads to reduce traffic congestion, especially in urban centres, there needs to be greater emphasis on planning and design to guarantee the safety of drivers and pedestrians.

When people move from one point to another, they often take risks in Trinidad and Tobago. For example, some people are conscious of the dangers of walking through a poorly lit, track where crimes have taken place; however, the choice is rational because it is the most accessible route to public transportation in a residential community that privilege vehicular mobility rather than pedestrians.

Road safety is a social justice issue because it protects lives and it ensures that all in the society have a fair chance to move from one point to the next with dignity and peace of mind. Change begins in the design of our mind and our environments.



“Implanted deep within us is the call to transcend ourselves through an encounter with others. For this reason, care must be taken not to fall into certain errors which can arise from a misunderstanding of the concept of human rights and from its misuse. Today there is a tendency to claim ever broader individual – I am tempted to say individualistic – rights. ” (111)


– Pope Francis, Fratelli Tuitti.

CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee