With all the injuries and deaths occurring recently on our roads, you’d think someone among our leaders would point to the elephant in the room: people are travelling too fast on our roads, and they are being enabled if not encouraged by vehicles that are too big, too powerful and too fast.

Because of our island’s topography and limited space, our roads were of necessity winding and narrow.

Narrow and winding roads means excessive stress as the speed goes up — stress on the vehicles, stress on the roads and stress on the drivers. Added to the stress is the fear more of us are experiencing from the fools who now drive even closer to our rear bumpers (tailgating) when common sense would dictate that at faster speeds they should allow extra space — assured clear distance — between their vehicles and the ones in front of them.

Then there are the not so bright drivers/riders who refrain from turning on their lights until it’s fully dark, using the rationale that since THEY can see quite well, there’s no need for lights. They seem to not have noticed that brake lights are important even in the daytime, not so they can see but so they can be seen.

Almost as important, perhaps more, to our livelihood is the danger and fear to tourists from oversized vehicles or vehicles travelling at breakneck speed. What kind of vacation experience will they have and relay if they are routinely nearly run off the road by gas-happy diddly-bops hardly concerned about their own lives, much less the lives of other road users?

You would think our so-called leaders would understand that given our conditions, going faster doesn’t automatically equate to more efficient transport. It’s common sense that when you have a multitude of road users, some of whom will not or cannot travel at a faster speed, the result is not more efficient transport but less, due to the turbulence created by differing velocities.

Like it or not, some people will stick closer to the official speed limit. Some are just law-abiding and have a gut resistance to breaking the law (35kph is still the legal speed limit). Some are ornery and just refuse to go with the flow. Some are uncomfortable with the demands of driving faster: greater attention, less margin for error, too much stress and strain.

Then there are the road users who don’t have much choice about their speed, such as pedestrians, joggers, equestrians, pedal-bikers — all of whom have equal rights to be on our roads.

Greater risks

At the other end of the spectrum are those giddy-headed motorbike riders who realise that they now have an advantage. As the speeds of the chase get higher, the risks are greater and the superior machines don’t have as much of an edge. So even if the police have faster bikes, the road limitations act to level the playing field and reduce the chances of being caught.

I don’t recall who it was who first described vehicles as weapons, but the parallel is there.

With guns, most of us understand that it’s unwise to put powerful weapons in the hands of the general public. It’s safer to severely restrict access because people are prone to abuse power. The same holds true for powerful vehicles. Power will be abused, particularly by groups who have little access to social, political or economic power. An examination of the demographics of traffic scofflaws and victims will bear this out.

Just as we do with guns, we should restrict access to oversized and/or overpowered vehicles. For more than 50 years our leaders recognised that putting vehicles capable of excessive speed or acceleration on our roads was a recipe for traffic disaster.

With larger vehicles, it is harder to stay within lane boundaries; the margins of safety are reduced, and that reduction is compounded by faster speeds. The predictable result is greater traffic turbulence, more drifting across the centre-line, more frequent collisions (with roadside walls as well as with other vehicles) and higher material costs from collisions, and exacerbated injuries and loss of human lives. Any competent traffic engineer, had they been asked, would have given that counsel.

Instead we have had know-it-alls in a hurry who made ill-informed decisions using cock-eyed reasoning.

The proverbial stable door was opened and the horse has now bolted. It will take wisdom and courage to rein this one in. Is anyone listening?