Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Trinidad and Tobago, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. In February 2011, Trinidad and Tobago outlawed the use of mobile phones while driving, except in “hands-free” mode. The penalty for talking or texting while driving is approximately USD$160 or imprisonment for three months. Trinidad and Tobago authorities will sometimes administer breathalyzer tests at unannounced checkpoints and traffic stops when driving under the influence is suspected. Penalties are stiff and may include imprisonment and steep fines.
Traffic moves on the left in Trinidad and Tobago. Most vehicles are right-hand drive, but left-hand drive vehicles are permitted. Rental cars are available, and are generally right-hand drive. A U.S. driver's license and/or an International Driving Permit are valid for up to 90 days after arrival. Seatbelts are required for drivers and front seat passengers. Cars may be stopped and drivers fined for not wearing seatbelts.
Trinidad has several good four-lane highways and one controlled-access highway. However, road quality decreases quickly on secondary roads. Rural roads are narrow and often have deep drainage ditches on either side. Some are in poor repair, and are frequently congested. Night travel should be avoided other than on major highways. Roadside assistance exists, but is limited and may be subject to lengthy delays. The Beetham Highway, a main thoroughfare in and out of the city, can be very dangerous if your vehicle has broken down. If your vehicle is still drivable you should get out of the area before seeking help. On the Beetham stretch, there are regular incidents of pedestrians running out into the road or throwing debris at cars – including masonry bricks – for the purpose of causing accidents and forcing cars to stop, whereupon a group of accomplices then descend upon the accident victims, robbing them of valuables, and often violently assaulting them, even if they are compliant. Elsewhere in Port of Spain, especially in Laventille, “bump and rob” incidents have been reported, in which the perpetrator rear-ends the victim, often causing only minor damage. When the victim emerges from the car, he or she is then robbed of valuables, and possibly carjacked as well. Some of these incidents have turned fatal, even when the victims were compliant. If you are involved in an accident in Laventille or on the Beetham Highway, if your car still drives, you should get out of the area, and get to a safe location before seeking help or assistance. Emergency ambulance services exist but may take a lengthy amount of time to reach the site of an accident and may not provide service in rural areas. The Ministry of Works and Transport is responsible for road conditions and safety in the country, but demand often outpaces availability of resources. On the road to Maracas Bay and onwards, landslides do occur. During heavy rains, drivers in all areas are advised to be extremely cautious as flooding and sinkholes have also been known to occur.
Trinidadian drivers may use hand signals to indicate turning, stopping, or slowing, which do not necessarily correspond to hand signals used in the United States. Trinidadian drivers are generally courteous, but can be flexible with the rules of the road. For example, cars traveling north on a two way street may cross into the southbound lane to stop and let passengers out. Visitors need to be attentive and alert. Intoxicated drivers on the road are a particular concern on the weekends, especially after dark when many locals are going to or returning from social events. Drivers should take extra precaution on narrow and winding roads leading in and out of beaches and small towns in Trinidad and Tobago. As always, defensive driving is strongly encouraged.
We suggest that you visit the website of the country’s Ministry of Tourism and national authority responsible for road safety.
Vehicle Accident Procedures: For cases in which there is major damage or any injuries, contact local authorities immediately. If it is safe to do so, render aid or assistance and remain on the scene until authorities arrive.
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