Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 20th 2014 Contents B10
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, November 20, 2014
"You re driving like a lunatic," my sister said
from the passenger seat.
I wasn t. It was not like the levels of motoring
lunacy I exhibited in Trinidad.
I ve always employed the rule: drive fast when it s
me alone in the car.
There was something so inviting about opening
up the throttle on the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway;
especially in the Guardian s company vehicle---oh
baby, it handled like a dream.
My sister can t drive and is a nervous passenger,
so anything but Driving Miss Daisy-style motoring
puts her on edge. She s also six months pregnant
and protective mother syndrome is in overdrive.
I was navigating the traffic-strewn streets of east
London at less than 25 mph, opportunistically grab-
bing advantages at traffic lights and honking at slow-
drivers when the "lunatic" comment came.
A week later I received a £130 fine (TT$1,300) in
the mail. "I told you," said my sister.
My misdemeanour? Entering and stopping in a
box junction when prohibited.
There are yellow grids on
the road that drivers are sup-
posed to leave clear for cars
to pass. I had contravened the
Highway Code by stopping
in one for eight seconds.
I was caught on camera
doing this. They send you
pictures with your licence
plates clearly visible so that
there can be no dispute. My
mother was caught doing the
same thing just weeks before,
so I surmised that there is a
CCTV camera pointed permanently at that box junc-
tion with somebody monitoring it all day long.
It s a very busy high street, so I estimate they must
catch 50 cars a day in that one spot alone. The fine
is reduced to £65 ($650) if paid within 14 days.
Assuming most people pay the reduced fee, that s
£3,250 ($32,500) Transport for London is making
from that box junction in a day. That s £22,750 a
week---over a million pounds a year!
I may be exaggerating, but only slightly.
It s not like you ve actually done anything bad or
dangerous, you ve simply driven into a box at 5 mph
and stopped for a few brief seconds. It s a honey pot
from which the authorities can cream profits---essen-
tially extra road taxes---which they can reinvest.
Normally I d "steups" and pay up, but this latest
fine came off the back of a £65 fine for parking in
the wrong spot (signposted by the most confusing
parking restrictions notice I ve ever seen) and four
(four!) speeding fines collected on the French Riviera
where I was attending a friend s wedding and having
a family holiday.
We d hired the slowest car I ve ever driven. It only
went up hills in third gear, like a stubborn mule and
if you left it in a higher gear it would literally grind
to a halt. But going downhill was fine.
"Why are all these cars going so slowly?" I remem-
ber asking, as we enjoyed the brief release of hurtling
downhill before beginning another power-sappingly
I found out why when I received the four fines
in the post along with bills for administrative fees
from the car rental company for providing the gen-
darmerie with my details for each offence.
I briefly considered not paying: it s a foreign country
after all, what can they do? But I read on the BBC
Web site that the EU now shares motoring offence
details and fines can be transferred to your country
of origin and passed on to debt collectors if you don t
It s all too much, isn t it? We are just ordinary cit-
izens going about our lives, why hit us with fines,
as if we don t have enough to pay?
Or have I been in Trinidad too long and gotten
used to the free and easy life?
Yes, T&T has the perils of the wrecker
van meting out its summary justice (I was
once towed for being less than nine metres
from the junction) but compared with Lon-
don, you can pretty much drive how you
like and park where you like.
Admittedly, Trinidad has worse road sta-
tistics than Britain and perhaps the restric-
tions are part of what keeps UK road casu-
alty numbers down.
The story that was huge in T&T just
before I arrived was about the two identical
twins, Khadijah and Khertima Taylor, killed
in a high-speed accident on the San Fer-
nando bypass, when their car flipped over
at a bridge by Cross Crossing interchange.
While I am of the opinion that cars are
meant to be driven fast (otherwise you might
as well ride a bicycle), I understand that
many drivers really shouldn t drive at speed.
Some drivers shouldn t even have licences
Okay, punish speeding, but parking fines
and box junctions? They re surely likely to
cause more deaths through road rage and
stress-related heart conditions.
So what s the solution to my need for
speed? Patience, slow down and set off ear-
lier, I m told. It s boring but undoubtedly
safer. If anybody can recommend some
relaxing, speed-inhibiting music for the car
stereo I would be grateful.
Meanwhile, good luck to Lewis Hamilton
in the F1 championship decider in Abu
Dhabi next week: don t drive like Miss Daisy!
Not an easy road
part of what
keeps UK road
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