Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 8th 2017 Contents A22 commentary
guardian.co.tt Monday, May 8, 2017
Last week the Attorney General
moved a 49-clause bill that
substantially overhauls the
1935 Motor Vehicles and Road
Traffic Act. The legislation aims to
establish some 100 modern driving
offences and improve efficiency
of traffic violation enforcement,
including legalising red-light cam-
eras, fixed tickets, and a system of
licence demerits (points).
As he does with all his bills, Mr
Al-Rawi praised this one's thought-
ful and careful drafting. But Senator
Dhan Mahabir quickly made fun of
the $750 penalty for an improperly
attired taxi driver.
I have long criticised our nig-
gling, pedantic approach to traffic
enforcement. Our obsession with
the idea of imposing rules---which
influential people simply evade.
Instead, I've advocated more
common sense approaches to driv-
ing violations, arguing that much
of our driving is an adaptation to
too many cars on too few roads, and
they ought to be embraced as or-
For instance, why don't we sim-
ply formalise the use of the shoul-
der during rush hours as a special
lane, restricted to high-occupancy
vehicles like taxis, or any vehicle
with a driver with the skill to cut
seamlessly back into the lane to the
Part of me, though, is so exhaust-
ed by our national culture of impa-
tience on the road that I'm urging
Parliament to make all forms of
impatient driving an offence. Driv-
ing impatiently is far from a single
It has so many distinct local ex-
pressions, which we all know well,
and many of us practise.
Here are a few key types of im-
patient driving offences that Mr
Al-Rawi has unfortunately over-
looked, and which I need either Sen
Mahabir or the eminently Opposi-
tional Sen Ramdeen to propose as
amendments to the bill.
For many of us with foreign
guests, our first local driving lesson
to them is: In Trinidad and Toba-
go, a yellow light means speed up.
Red-light cameras ought to be able
to detect acceleration. So fine those
motorists who catch the light before
it changes red as well.
2---Follow De Leader
It isn't just one driver who de-
cides she can still follow the cars
ahead, even though the traffic light
has turned red.
It's often two or three, each one
deciding: if she can, so can I. Let's
double the fine for every successive
3---De Both Ah Dem
This is the offence that most easily
induces road rage on my part. It's
the driver who can't make up his
mind which lane is likely to move
faster, so he straddles both until it
becomes clear. This could also be
called Hedging, but that involves a
pun on prostrate and prostate.
The Diego Martin Highway spe-
cial. Traffic on the highway has
stopped at the light, or the light
is about to change. So the clever
speedster notices, and quickly
gets into the off-ramp lane, so she
can nip between the traffic on the
cross-street, then back onto the
on-ramp on the other side, leaving
all the law-abiders seething in her
5---Yuh Have Spare Parts At Home?
Stopping at a crosswalk is a dis-
cretion for the Trinb driver, a favour
we in our killing machines do for a
pedestrian---when it moves us.
And, sadly, we need an even stiff-
er penalty for the driver who's so
determined not to stop, he swerves
around the vehicle that has.
6---Heavy T Bumper Jam
Speeding a loaded goods vehicle.
Does this require any further elab-
oration? I think jail ought to be the
punishment for the 18-wheeler that
broke the Wrightson Rd light and
barrelled into the path of my car.
This offence takes a few distinct
forms. One is the driver behind you
who pulls out into the clear lane
you were going just about to change
into, before you even have a chance
to. Moving To De Left.
Another is the car behind you
that overtakes you on the left before
as you are trying to return safely to
the left lane after overtaking.
Jack Up De Back Bumper. A third
is the truck that bears down on you
when you're driving in the right
lane, and tailgates you with its high
beams on, even when traffic pre-
vents you from changing lanes.
The moment an opportunity
opens for you to move out of the
lane, the driver swiftly executes one
of the other versions of the offence.
8---This Is Not An Emergency
Ah yes, the uniformed service
members, whose inability to wait in
line at the bank, or anywhere else,
leads to emergency vehicles that
routinely switch on their flashing
lights and sirens the minute there's
the smallest traffic jam, then turn
them off once the road is clear.
9---Who Reach First, Pass First
And then there's this. There's
no punishing this one, though. It's
the wonderful hallmark of national
The game of rushing to see who
will get through the single clear
lane on our many narrow streets, no
matter which side the obstruction
And the endless flow of vehicles
that follows the one that wins the
FAKE NEWS WAR STOKES VENEZUELA'S DEADLY CRISIS
CARACAS---"President flees into
exile...Opposition leader mur-
dered... resident appears danc-
ing...Opposition leader says: 'I'm
Venezuela may be short of food,
medicine and toiletries, but in the
chaos of its violent political crisis
it has plenty of fake---or question-
Hoarse from shouting or
breathing tear gas in weeks of
anti- and pro-government pro-
tests, Venezuelans are also dizzy
from the buzz of rumours and
In the streets, looting and
clashes between protesters and
police have left 36 people dead
since last month. Online, the first
casualty has been the truth.
"The debate about fake news is
worldwide, but at least in other
countries there are credible news
sources of reference," says Andres
Canizales, a media specialist at
Andres Bello University in Cara-
"In Venezuela we don't have
those anymore. Misinformation
is fertile ground for fake news to
With international pressure ris-
ing on President Nicolas Maduro
as he resists opposition calls for
elections, tension was heightened
this week by online claims about
jailed opposition leader Leopoldo
On Twitter, US Senator Marco
Rubio claimed he had "confirmed
@leopoldolopez has been taken to
a military hospital in #Venezuela
in very serious condition."
Maduro's hardline number two,
Diosdado Cabello, responded by
releasing a "proof of life" video in
which Lopez appeared saying that
he was alive.
The online rumour apparent-
ly started with a tweet by Mi-
ami-based Venezuelan journalist
His claim that Lopez was tak-
en from jail to hospital "without
signs of life" was retweeted tens
of thousands of times.
Lopez's condition has still not
been fully clarified. His wife Lilian
Tintori said the video was false
and that she has not been allowed
to see Lopez for over a month.
In a country where the govern-
ment controls a broad network
of newspapers and broadcasters,
social media and new-wave jour-
nalism sites are key to following
the political struggle between
the socialist Maduro and his cen-
The sides in the conflict accuse
each other of manipulating news
Maduro himself has created a
"digital militia" to sign up cit-
izens in the street for Twitter,
Facebook and Instagram accounts
and encourage them to circulate
"It is a new front in the battle,"
says sociologist Maryclen Stelling.
"We have had the electoral one,
the street one, the power conflict,
the media front, and now we have
the cross-media front."
When some of the fiercest
clashes erupted on April 20, ru-
mours spread online that Maduro
had fled the country.
Videos spread purporting to
show anti-aircraft searchlights
being activated at the presidential
It was later affirmed that the
lights came from a theatre show
on a nearby square.
"There is a deliberate saturation
of information so that you sus-
pend your critical judgment," says
"You do not know what is true
and what is false. You decide de-
pending on which political side
you belong to."
Regular television channels
have refrained from broadcasting
images of the unrest in the streets
even at the height of recent pro-
tests, screening light entertain-
ment shows instead.
The Press Workers' Union de-
nounced that as evidence of "a re-
gime of censorship and self-cen-
Reports of violence by security
forces against protesters circulate
unhindered online but have to
compete with counter-claims by
what Stelling calls "laboratories of
war and cyber terrorism."
Social media are a gauge of the
vitriol of the crisis.
Maduro's supporters have been
using the hashtag #DerechaTer-
against their opponents.
Supporters of the opposi-
tion overseas have been using
In other messages, the tone is
sharper, with leaders of the sides
exchanging threats and insults.
Maduro retweeted a post liken-
ing the opposition to sewage, with
a video showing protesters jump-
ing into a river to escape tear gas.
His top opponent Henrique
Capriles posted a video of Maduro
dancing while protests raged.
"He who laughs last, lasts long-
est," Capriles wrote.
"Soon we who have been re-
pressed will be laughing at you @
nicolasmaduro and your corrupt
Anti-government protesters have accused President Maduro of moving towards a dictatorship.
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