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Nov 29, 2023

Road Safety and Why It Matters

Road traffic accidents are among the leading causes of deaths in Belize each year. Several lives were lost recently due to road traffic mishaps in different parts of the country. This past weekend alone, four men lost their lives when the vehicle they were travelling in careened off the Hummingbird Highway and flipped several times. It is with this in mind that News Five looks at the rules of the road in this week’s edition of our Five Point Breakdown. News Five’s Marion Ali reports.


Marion Ali, Reporting

It is everyone’s worst nightmare – to lose loved ones to a road traffic accident. Traffic accidents have been among the leading causes of death in this country. Many times, these accidents can be prevented, if only drivers and travellers follow the traffic laws.


What is Road Safety?


Sylvian Neal

Sylvian Neal, Office Administrator, Road Safety Project

“The concept of road safety is ensuring that everybody follows different safety practices while using the road to ensure that everybody is safe on their way to their different destinations.”


The first phase of the Road Safety Project upgraded the southern portion of the country between 2013 and 2018. Now, the second phase of the project is being implemented by the Ministry of Economic Development and focuses on improving road infrastructure in the northern portion of Belize. Sylvian Neal is the project’s Office Administrator. He shares what they are tasked to do.


Sylvian Neal

“The second phase of this project focuses on a corridor from Belize City to the northern border and that infrastructure development is being undertaken by the Ministry of Infrastructure Development while we deal with the softer interventions surrounding awareness and this includes various initiatives and partnerships with the Department of Transport, the Police Department, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and of course, the Ministry of Infrastructure Development. We have different components that we undertake with these different partners, whereby we procured different equipment such as enforcement equipment for the Department of Transport, and as well as the police department to help them to deal with their patrolling and their checkpoints. When it comes to the Ministry of Health, we have procured six type three ambulances to aid with post crash care and they can be seen around the country, you know because they were handed over to different branches of the Ministry of Health.”


The Road Safety Project also creates awareness within the school system on the importance of practicing safety measures on the road. But while the students are getting the message, many times it is the adults who are at fault for not exercising responsible road safety practices. So we checked in with a traffic warden at the Department of Transport for the primary rules of the road.


Rules of the Road


John Alvarado

John Alvarado, Traffic Warden, Department of Transport

“First of all, the lines on the road, the yellow lines, solid lines or the broken lines, those are considered as traffic sign and those each represent something. The broken line would represent that in that era when you want to overtake a vehicle, you can overtake. You are allowed to overtake that vehicle as long as it is safe. So the burden to ascertain whether it’s safe, that rests on the driver. Now, as opposed to the solid line on the road, that is indicating to you that you are prohibited to overtake in that section. You should not overtake in that section. And these solid lines are placed in specific areas. You would notice that they would be either around a curve or on the crown of a hill. There is a speed limit, so the speed limit within towns and villages would be 15 miles per hour for trucks and buses and other vehicles would be 25 miles [per hour] within the villages and town also. Now, on the highway, it’s supposed to be, by law, for trucks and buses is 45 miles per hour and 55 miles per hour for other vehicles. It is unlawful for passengers to be behind a pickup. It not allowed by law because the law specify that the passengers in a vehicle needs to be affixed to fixed seat, right?”


There are other rules that travellers must obey when on the road. Not wearing seatbelts and driving contrary to the free flow of traffic are violations. Not wearing a helmet while riding on a motorcycle is also an offense.


Sylvian Neal

“A helmet protects your head first and foremost from head injuries and a helmet -a certified helmet – which would be a helmet that has a visor, a proper body to cover your entire face, that has different components such as the visor protects your face from the breeze that might be flying into your face, insects. It has an impact absorbing liner, and it also has a comfort padding and so it’s very important that people wear those properly on their heads and strapped at all times whenever they are on a cycle right, and the same goes for if they have passengers with them.”


People who are caught violating the traffic laws are dealt with. Usually they are given verbal warnings for minor offenses, like driving with broken lights. For more serious offenses, they are ticketed and for offenses like overcrowding, they can be prosecuted.


Penalties for Overcrowding


John Alvarado

“After the summons is issued and they would have to appear at court and when they go to court, they are the ones that would plead guilty or not guilty, but the majority of the times, in my experience, they would plead guilty because they don’t want to waste the court’s time. The fine that they would charge him is $100 in the court. That is what they would charge them.”


Marion Ali

For overcrowding a bus?


John Alvarado

“Yes, for excessive passengers on a public service vehicle, plus $5 cost of court.”


Traffic warden John Alvarado says that in instances when drivers are stopped and are suspected of drinking and driving, they use the breathalyzer.


(Using the Breathalyzer)


John Alvarado

“After the test is administered, depending on the result, if it’s above 0.08, then we would inform them that they have committed an offense which would be driving under the influence of alcohol, and, we are allowed to issue a traffic violation ticket for $500.”


Drivers of motor vehicles are required to have several pieces of documents to show traffic wardens and the police when they are stopped at a checkpoint. And a valid driver’s license is just one of the documents that you need to present.


What You Need To Present


John Alvarado

“If they don’t have their driver’s license at that time, then it becomes an offense, it’s failing to produce driver’s license forthwith. If you meet that checkpoint, they would definitely request that. They have to check your license for the vehicle, that is up to date, your insurance also that it is up to date, the certificate of title which should be kept in the vehicle at all times.”


Drivers must also ensure that the vehicle they are driving is roadworthy and properly functioning. Following the signs placed on the right hand side of the road also serve to alert drivers when to slow down or stop if necessary. And as it relates to roundabouts, knowing how to use them prevents accidents. If you are approaching the circular, you must give way or yield to vehicles that are already in the traffic circle, before you proceed. Marion Ali for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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