Traffic is a combination of three components: people, roads, and vehicles (motorised and non- motorised). Safety on public roads should be of great concern to everyone; therefore, it calls for both citizens and the government to play equal parts in ensuring that safety is maintained. But to what extent are both groups playing their part?
Last Saturday afternoon’s motorist and pedestrian accident in Point Blanche, among others, has really shown many gaps in the island's traffic system that need to be addressed urgently. As a concerned citizen, I believe that these cracks must be analysed through the three main traffic components.
The issue that arises with pedestrians as a traffic component mostly stems from a lack of paying keen attention while using the road, along with disregarding their responsibility as commuters as outlined in the island’s road traffic code. According to the Road Traffic book, using the roads in Sint Maarten, “Commuters must conduct themselves in such a manner that does not hinder the free flow of traffic unnecessarily, endanger road safety or create the risk of endangering road safety.”
Upholding the guidelines stipulated in the road traffic codebook includes pedestrians using the designated pedestrian crossing, adhering to walking on the sidewalks provided, and being aware of motorists while on the road to ensure their safety. However, can pedestrians truly play their part while on the road according to the road traffic book?
The need for more pedestrian crossings is an understatement. The nearest pedestrian crossing is just too far within areas that people need to cross frequently, which forces pedestrians to cross wherever and whenever. This increases the instances of road accidents with pedestrians by them just merely bringing their groceries across the street. The government needs to create more pedestrian crossings and ensure proper signage is erected where necessary, especially in busy commercial areas.
THE ROAD AND VEHICLES
The road tax ordinance was enacted to allow citizens to contribute directly to the development of the road infrastructure, which includes road creation and road maintenance, through the collecting of an annual sum that is supposed to go into the road fund. “However, in practice, the money flows to the government’s general coffers and is used for general government expenditures,” according to the 2021 General Audit Chamber report. This practice creates distrust and a sense of unreliability between the government and the people of Sint Maarten, which results in hurt in citizens' pockets to replace tires, axels, and shocks, etc. Why should we pay this price, when our annual road taxes are supposed to alleviate this cost?
For many years, the government has turned to patching sections of road surfaces, which is just like putting on a bandaid on a cut without applying proper medication. In other words, the government just employs ‘quick fixes’ to the large issues of inadequate road infrastructure and improper drainage on the island, and this is just not enough.
The government of Sint Maarten needs to use the road tax for its intended purpose and invest more in sustainable road resurfacing and maintain them frequently.
The cries of the public for proper road maintenance, more pedestrian crossings, and better traffic signs is constant, but is anyone listening? We need answers NOW!
Kelron J.P Bellot
Young concerned citizen