Errant drivers, recklessness on roadways

Calls for better usage of our roadways seems to be falling on deaf ears as the accident death toll continues to climb.
Already the Home Affairs Ministry has confirmed that road fatalities have increased by 100 per cent. In a bid to caution road users and more so motorcyclists, Commissioner of Police, Clifton Hicken has called for better use of the roadways. To quote him: “We are going to step up the enforcement, it is necessary for us to do that. The category of road users that is giving us problems is the motorcyclist; so we are going to start a campaign, but we are going to enforce and sensitise them in terms of how they should use the road.”
But on his heels of his cautionary words, two Berbice men – 30-year-old Devindra Lakhraj and 24-year-old Ronny Persaud – crashed into a motorcar along the Number 79 Village public road in Corriverton, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne). A mere 24 hours later, 38-year-old Samlall Mahaice was speeding and lost control of his motorcar collided with a culvert at Belle Vue Public Road at Canal Number Two Polder, West Bank Demerara (WBD).
There is no doubt that there is always an element of risk whenever someone uses the roadways, be it a motorist, passenger, cyclist or pedestrian. This is somewhat inherent, since it is believed that accidents will happen. Often, the fault is not with the one being cautious, the risks may manifest in various forms, such as a lack of street lighting while driving at nights; potholes, which when swerved from could place a vehicle in the direct path of another; absence of or non-functioning traffic lights, which can create uncertainty among drivers; roaming animals; speeding; drinking and driving; narrow streets and lack of traffic signage. In addition, disobedience of basic traffic etiquette and other rules exacerbate the risks.
Seemingly common now is the disrespect for designated major roads. Many drivers, including some within the public transportation system, refuse to adhere to what is mandatory. As a result, a number of accidents occur frequently at some of those points. Similarly, the practice of running red lights and the green signal that allows pedestrians to cross continues unabated, predominantly by minibus drivers. The danger this poses needs no explanation.
While there is a plethora of traffic violations on a daily basis, some appear more prominent. Undertaking, cutting in front of a vehicle, sticking out of a minibus conductor’s arm to do likewise from the other side, seem the new norm of driving. Aside from the obvious danger, especially to young and inexperienced drivers, and being an irritant, it is blatant bullyism and a potent source for road rage.
It appears that those who engage in such practices do not see themselves as being errant, or what they do as a traffic violation. Lanes that allow for turning-on-red are abused and used as if it’s the right-of-way. Speeding is foremost, causing areas that are supposed to be free of minibuses to become dangerous.
In addition, some drivers seemingly take pride in having an alcoholic beverage in their possession while transporting passengers. Adding to the woes of those who abide by traffic rules is that they are verbally abused when trying to stave off a potential transgressor.
What is desperately needed is a sustained national campaign to reduce traffic violations, and let the law take its course on the errant ones, regardless of who they are. The carelessness exhibited puts all road users at risk. This is where the National Road Safety Council would need to be supported and probably empowered to have a more visible presence and increased influence all year round.
It must be noted that drivers are not the only violators of traffic rules, for some pedestrians are equally guilty. Aside from the common jaywalking, they cross busy intersections when not authorised, and refuse to use the overhead pedestrian walkways, thereby bringing danger to themselves and others. Like errant drivers, they seem empowered to not observe basic traffic rules. This will only change when there is a constant stream of violators up the stairs of the courts across the country. There is a hope that that is not wishful thinking.