Over the last three weeks, the issue of alcohol and the massive damaging effects it is having on individuals and communities has again been brought to the fore. There have been a number of deadly accidents countrywide, most of which were as a result of alcohol consumption. Persons, all of whom could have been working and assisting their families, and perhaps helping in the development of their communities and country as a whole, are now dead. This is in addition to the dozens of other persons who had lost their lives earlier in the year because of some form of recklessness committed by drivers, or, in some cases, carelessness by pedestrians themselves.
We are indeed convinced that the efforts being made by law enforcement and other authorities to reduce the alarming rate of road accidents are not achieving the desired results. This year will go down as yet another year when Guyana experienced some of its most horrific road accidents, resulting in losses of lives and injuries to countless others. We are very much concerned about the number of persons losing their lives on our roadways. Too many families have been broken as a result of losing loved ones due to road accidents, most of which could have been avoided.
According to statistics provided by the Guyana Police Force as of June, there have been 49 accidents recorded throughout Guyana since 2019 commenced, and these accidents resulted in the deaths of 52 individuals. Over the past two weeks, approximately six persons have lost their lives, causing that figure to climb further. Of the total number, over 75 percent of these fatal accidents were caused by driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding; a combination of these two factors, the traffic chief has reported.
In 2018, of the 51 deaths recorded, 41 were males while 10 were females. Of this total, two were children.
The reasons for the high rates of road accidents are well known, and there is no need to rehash them here, except to say that while there are various factors which impact on road safety, there is little doubt that the single most important one, in a general sense, is enforcement of the traffic laws. The Government has enacted the relevant legislation in relation to driving under the influence, loud music in vehicles, overloading, speeding, etc, but if the laws are not adequately implemented, they become useless. It would be interesting to find out how many of the drivers/ conductors who are stopped for breaking a traffic law/s are actually charged and brought before the courts. It should also be mentioned here that, in some cases, Police officers themselves are engaged in breaking the traffic rules; for example, by speeding or driving under the influence, and hence are the source of some of the accidents we currently experience.
While it is not our intention to paint the entire Police Force with the same brush, as there are many professional and honest officers within the Force, we are convinced that unless what is perceived as the endemic corruption in the organisation — and the traffic section in particular — is addressed in a systematic way, we will not achieve the desired results.
We had also made the point before that Guyanese need to move away from the culture of disregard and irresponsibility in relation to using the roadways. The Education Ministry and other relevant stakeholders should examine the possibility of strengthening the schools’ curricula with the aim of increasing knowledge, skills and understanding among children and young people about the responsible use of our roadways. Similar efforts should also be made targeting the adult population as they, too, are sometimes found to be irresponsible when using our roadways.
We believe the time has come for all stakeholders to return to the drawing board and re-examine their approach to road accidents, since what currently obtains as road safety has failed the nation.
For a small country such as ours, we cannot afford to continue along this path.