As Guyanese continue to express concern and shock at the numerous horrific accidents over the past two weeks, ironically, those occurred during Road Safety Month when caution and care on the roadways are expected to be exemplary. While there are various reasons for those accidents, a common theme appears to be the unnecessary taking of risk and speed— factors often lamented as causes.
Historically, the shock, concern and caution that follow a fatal accident seem to be fleeting and the major contributory factors are seemingly swiftly resumed despite public outcry. However, given what occurred over the past two weeks, and judging from sentiments expressed on social media, it seems that a large number of Guyanese are outraged and are calling for drivers to slow down.
While that is encouraging, only time will tell if public pressure will indeed make a positive impact. Social media holds tremendous influence and traffic violations by some irresponsible drivers have been captured and attracted the attention of the Police. A recent case showed a minibus driver dangling his feet outside the vehicle’s door while it was in motion.
One would cringe at viewing that particular video for, clearly, the driven is not in full control of the vehicle and he placed all the occupants at needless risk. While it was horrifying, it appeared that the act was encouraged by some who were present. In the same video, the conductor was also seen engaging in another despicable act as he gyrated with the door opened as the vehicle motored along.
Based upon feedback, the Police are asking for assistance to have the driver and conductor brought in for questioning. While the person who made and posted the video must be commended, those who reportedly encouraged it must be condemned. That incident shows just a minuscule of the recklessness that occurs daily on the roadways, especially by minibuses but not confined.
There were instances when some of those drivers imbibe alcoholic beverages while in the process of transporting members of the public. The conductors randomly stick their hands out to demand that the bus be allowed to cut in front of vehicles without considering the risk involved.
The said drivers literally drive on the parapets at times to illegally undertake just to avoid staying in lanes and to reach their destinations within the shortest possible time. They also blatantly block turning lanes while ignoring the pleading horns.
The end result is that those who respect the traffic laws are made to spend much longer commuting and are left at the mercy of those inconsiderate drivers. This in no way suggests that all minibus drivers are reckless; however, many are noticeable offenders across the country. Sadly, their unacceptable behaviour has been allowed to continue, seemingly encouraged by both the travelling public and the Police to an extent.
While some passengers have objected to the overall despicable behaviour of minibus operators and were in the process abused, there is an urgent need for a collective and robust approach to denounce what has unfortunately become a culture of disrespect to both passengers and traffic laws.
There are times when the Police act and times when they seemingly turn a blind eye. Serious consideration must be given to the fact that some Police officers own minibuses. That may contribute to the blind eye reportedly being turned allowing the lawlessness on the roads to fester. Every day, roadways, including those in some villages that are not approved on the road service, are used by minibuses.
The Police cannot be oblivious of that for in some cases when they are managing the flow of traffic, they allow those buses to re-enter the main thoroughfare. That can only be seen as encouraging a transgression of the said road service. Also, on a daily basis, many minibuses are crammed with passengers having exceeded the legal limit.
There are times when the Police intervene and commendations must be given; however, there is a lack of much-needed consistency, not just for the minibus drivers in question, but all others.
The situation has worsened and will further decline if no meaningful and sustained intervention is made. If the working traffic lights were to be configured to best suit the rush hours, then more ranks could be freed up to deal with traffic violations.
In addition, there should be a consideration for more stringent mechanisms, including raising the required age to obtain a licence to drive a minibus or taxi and higher costs. Penalties for traffic violations must be more punitive, possibly even for minor offences.
In whatever review that may now take place, maybe a protocol on how minibuses owned by Police Officers be treated in the context herein and to simplify a complaint process for the public needs to established. A WhatsApp account to facilitate videos of traffic violations and the immediate use of footage from public CCTV cameras to fight this scourge would be a good start.
The bottom line is this issue must be addressed immediately and holistically since a lack of sustained action will continue to be interpreted as encouragement for the lawlessness.