‘A Prevailing Sense of Tragedy’

A friend writes from Trinidad to alert me that the book had been referred to in yesterday’s Trinidad Guardian, albeit under an unfortunate set of circumstances: The road death of a promising young boxer. The editorial follows:

“Refresh message of road safety

The news of the death of boxer Jizelle Salandy and the injuries sustained by national footballer Tamara Watson only add to a prevailing sense of tragedy on the roads of Trinidad and Tobago. Just a few days before, an automobile crash threatened the careers of two of this country’s track stars, Richard Thompson and Monique Cabral. In the first week of the new year, there are already two fatalities on the books and the loss of Salandy, a young boxer with an unblemished record of wins, is particularly painful. The Arrive Alive campaign has done much to bring the issue of road safety back into public discourse, and to heighten awareness of hot-button issues like drunk driving.

If, however, there is anything at all that a troubled nation can take away from the disturbing news of the last week, it is the need to drive the message of careful and defensive driving deeper into the public psyche. Among its many warnings about crime in Trinidad and Tobago, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office cautions: “The standard of driving in Trinidad and Tobago is erratic. Road accidents leading to fatalities are a regular occurrence.” On his blog, Tom Vanderbilt, author of the book “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), noted about his visit to Trinidad and Tobago in December, 2008: “According to Thursday’s Trinidad Guardian, in a little box headlined ‘Mr. Death’ showing an image of the Grim Reaper, there have been over 250 (actually 226 at that point) road fatalities this year in T&T.

“By just one comparison, Northern Ireland, which this year had one of its safest years ever, has around 120 fatalities—with a population some 600,000 larger. The reasons are not hard to imagine: There are many two-lane, non-divided highways in the country, which people drive at routinely high speeds (life seems relaxed everywhere except the roads).” The reasons for the high incidence of accidents and road fatalities are well known; a culture that endorses speeding and a lax appreciation of the rules of the road and the lingering machismo of drinking and driving. The tragedy of Jizelle Salandy’s passing and the near misses that have spared Thompson, Cabral and others who have survived mishaps on the road recently, should serve as a caution for the upcoming Carnival season, which will run for potentially dangerous weeks.

While previous efforts at road safety education have been enthusiastic and laudable, real changes in national attitudes to road safety will only come when people start talking to each other about the consequences of dangerous driving behaviour. Those conversations need to begin among young people, the sector of society most likely to be out late at night, driving fast cars and in a state of diminished judgment. Stakeholders interested in minimising risk on the road and Government agencies and ministries with a focus on the young should encourage popular young personalities to make road safety and sound judgment when driving in risky situations part of their conversations with their audiences, colleagues and friends.

Young people with a leadership role in communities, schools and groups should be encouraged to set an example and spread positive word of the value of key safety issues like designated drivers, defensive driving techniques and the need to respect the safety of passengers over matters of ego or style. Through our youth newspaper, GIENetwork, the Guardian stands ready to play our part in delivering a message of safety and due diligence on the road to young people vulnerable to the temptations and enthusiasms of driving during the Carnival season. A reduction in the number of people killed on the nation’s roads requires an all-out national effort that touches everyone in this society, in order to forestall the loss and injury of valuable young lives.”

While I’ll all for the messages of attitudes and personal action in the editorial, there is one other aspect that deserves note, namely this fragment from a Guardian article:

“Frederick said that upon reaching vicinity of the NP overpass at Sea Lots, Port-of-Spain, Salandy hit a culvert and smashed head-on into a concrete pillar, dubbed the killer pillar. People who fell victims to that pillar in the past included Ram Kirpalani and chief immigration officer Joseph Bodkyn. Members of the Emergency Health Services (EHS) arrived promptly and pulled out a bloodied Salandy who was still conscious. She was taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, but died around 8.29 am, while undergoing emergency surgery.”

I don’t know the road in question, but under modern safety engineering such an obstruction near a road intended for higher speeds — particularly one that already killed at least two other “boldface” names — would certainly be dealt with some Brifen wire, etc.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 7th, 2009 at 3:43 pm and is filed under Cars, Drivers, Risk, Traffic Psychology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Transport column to me at:

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage:

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency:

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau:

Order Traffic from:

Amazon | B&N | Borders
Random House | Powell’s

U.S. Paperback UK Paperback
Traffic UK
Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from

For UK publicity enquiries please contact Rosie Glaisher at Penguin.

Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013 “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Grand Rapids MI



January 2009

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