Anonymous open letter to the Traffic Department
Surely, it cannot have escaped the attention of the Police Traffic Department that Federation Drive, Goodwill, cries out for attention.
Federation Drive is a nice, straight, long stretch of road that our cyclists and motor vehicle drivers have assumed to be a racetrack. It is a racetrack for those who do not require a great deal of provocation to rev up their engines to noisy, deafening effect. This applies more so to motor bikes, scooters and some motor cars that seem to have their mufflers specially adjusted for maximum noise effect. Last time I checked Federation Drive was still a residential area. It is extremely uncomfortable for my family residing as we do east of the Hospital compound. Imagine what life must be like for those who reside along Federation Drive between the Roundabout and Tyrell’s Lane who also have to contend with the noise from the construction of the new hospital.
And there is the related issue of speeding. This may apply more to Federation Drive than to many other places in the Nature Isle. When last was anyone charged for speeding on Federation Drive? Are speed limit laws enforced in our do-what-you-want Nature Isle? Are there speed-limit signs posted along our motorways? Isn’t Federation Drive, one of the roads in our beloved country that cries out for the posting of speed limit signs? Maybe this situation will soon be remedied, with necessary enforcement?
As I refer to Federation Drive does it occur to anyone that I am speaking of a roadway that actually adjoins the Princess Margaret Hospital, currently being (impressively) reconfigured into the Dominica China Friendship Hospital? Is there another place in the world where vehicular noise and speed levels on roads adjoining a hospital, (in our case our country’s main public hospital), are so unrestricted and unpoliced as in this Nature Isle?
Medical studies show that excessively loud noise causes patients more than just irritation. In fact, side effects such as elevated blood pressure, quickened heart rate, and increased metabolism have led researchers to conclude that noise can slowdown recovery rates, thus lengthening hospital stays.
A 2016 study, The Impact of Road Traffic Noise on Hospital Workers, looked at the impact of traffic noise pollution on hospital workers in Amman, Jordan. The study showed that noise levels in areas adjacent to the three hospitals studied were much higher than the environmental limits set by local regulations.
They also found that:
- 43% of the Medicare givers always got annoyed by traffic noise;
- Early morning and afternoon were the times of day when noise really bothered hospital workers;
- 26% of the survey participants reported that they suffered a headache from high noise levels;
- 19% reported that traffic noise caused them difficulty in concentrating; and
- 50% agreed that traffic noise had an impact on performance.
One of their recommendations may be especially relevant to the situation above the Goodwill Roundabout and all over the Nature Isle, i.e. to “apply traffic management techniques that can reduce noise levels”; and to increase public awareness in general on the importance of environmental protection projects and the effects of traffic noise on public health, since noise pollution is a serious environmental issue.
Anti-noise posters near to hospitals are often topped with clever acronyms, such as ‘SHHH’ (Silent Hospitals Help Healing) and ‘HUSH’ (Help Us Support Healing) or the time-honoured ‘Hospital Quiet Zone.’
In almost every country, areas in and around hospitals are “silent” (or “quiet”) zones, where the standards for noise pollution are set at a level not harmful to patients. Alas, in our Nature Isle the road adjoining our main hospital is a noise-filled racetrack.
“According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, noises that exceed 80 decibels are detrimental to your health. Children are affected by noises above 60 decibels … “Any noise that dwarfs normal conversation between two people is most probably above 60 decibels.”
According to medical experts, there are three serious health problems that could potentially arise from noise pollution:damaged brain and hearing power; increased risk of cardiovascular diseases; psychological disorders – in addition to the more obvious effects of interfering with speech and sleep. Other experts identify additional potential health consequences of noise pollution, namely, irritation, hypertension, tinnitus, and paralysis.
Road traffic is by far the largest source of noise in the streets around the hospital. Sources of road traffic noise can beheavy vehicles, modified cars and motorcycles; noisy truck engine brakes; noisy exhaust systems; loud music from vehicles; empty heavy vehicles; vehicle horns; and driver behavior (in particular, rapid acceleration and sudden braking).
In addition to the construction noise deriving from ongoing work on the new Dominica China Friendship Hospital, Federation Drive has had to suffer greatly increased traffic noise pollution in recent years. Construction of the DCFH has itself brought along increased traffic noise from the heavy vehicles involved in that construction project; and post-Maria, heavy vehicle operators found it more convenient to use Federation Drive to travel to and from the Roseau Valley.
So, the noise pollution became close to unbearable, but nearby residents and hospital staff and patients would have taken comfort in the awareness that these two noise sources would not last forever. Already there has been a reduction in the heavy vehicles going to and from the Valley as various projects get completed. And too, the work on the DCFH will come to an end at some point.
The real problem is the noise deriving from modified cars and motorcycles, noisy exhaust systems; loud music from vehicles; vehicle horns; and speeding – problems that afflict our Nature Isle and are of especial concern on Federation Drive, Goodwill, that adjoins the hospital.
Since of course vehicular noise is not an issue that affects only Federation Drive, Goodwill, the question arises: are there limits on permissible vehicular noise in this do-what-you-want island of ours? Does the Traffic Department check on deafeningly loud motorbike and car mufflers and music systems) during the annual vehicle inspections? Are these inspections taken at all seriously? Does the Traffic Department police speed limits? Are most persons aware of speed limits? What is the speed limit for Federation Drive, especially the portion that adjoins the hospital? Is the use, (especially the aggressive use) of horns permitted on streets that adjoin the hospital? More generally should vehicle owners and drivers be allowed to assault the eardrums of the population through the inexplicable loudness of their music? (In Barbados persons get charged for “causing a public nuisance by allowing loud music to emanate from their shops.)
Is the Nature Isle’s Traffic Department operational, on top of things, effective or sleeping? Are there laws / regulations that govern these things?Or is it that our relevant laws and regulations do not provide the clothing that our Traffic Department needs for dealing with clear-cut noise pollution from our offending motorcycles and vehicles?
Writers in other areas of the world have expressed concern about traffic noise pollution. One writer was especially concerned about the illegal use of air horns or pressure horns in private vehicles thus compounding the noise pollution problem. Not only air horns but regular vehicle horns are also a problem when used persistently or aggressively.
The traffic situation on Federation Drive, especially the portion adjoining the hospital, has been made worse in recent months through the introduction of an entrance/exit gate on Federation Drive. With drivers and motorcyclists speeding noisily along the racetrack that Federation Drive has become, and with vehicles regularly exitingthe DCFH through this new entrance/exit, we have an accident waiting to happen. The drivers and riders speeding up and down Federation Drive find it necessary to alert vehicles exiting the DCFH on to Federation Drive,through the loud, aggressive,and annoying use of their horns, thus aggravating the noise pollution problem right next to the hospital.
Something needs to be done. Is our Traffic Department up to it? We call on the Department (and the Commissioner of Police) to do a service to the Nature Isle by using everything in its armory to deal with the problem, at national level and as relates to the streets adjoining our new Dominica China Friendship Hospital. At the national level there is a crying need to eliminate noise pollution in all its aspects. The annual vehicle inspections may provide an appropriate mechanism along with others. As regards Federation Drive, Goodwill, a place to start might be to designate the area around the hospital a Quiet Zone, with the necessary signs and public education. And to use traffic management techniques to deal with the traffic problem: speed limits, sleeping policemen (no pun intended), smart traffic lights or whatever combination of these that makes sense.And how about making Federation Drive one-way up to Rose Street and bringing Rose Street more into the picture?
The traffic noise problem on Federation Drive, in particular the portion that adjoins the Dominica China Friendship Hospital, needs to be addressed. Apart from the noise reduction benefit … we may avoid the accident that seems just there waiting to happen.