One week ago having examined the weather pattern, Traffic Chief Linden Isles cautioned drivers to be extra careful on the wet roadways. His warning came on the heels of statistics which revealed that road accidents and fatalities have increased for this year. As a matter of fact, it was recently revealed that there were 35 accidents with 39 deaths last year in this period and to date there were 39 accidents with 41 deaths. Given these figures, he called on all road users to be careful on the wet roadways. He expounded that when the road surface is wet, there is less friction between the tyres and the roadway and if brakes are applied vehicles tend to skid.
Just mere days after the traffic chief at length explained the caution that needs to be exercised on wet roads, a speeding minibus on a rainy Monday slammed into another at the intersection of Princes and High Streets, Georgetown. Several persons were severely injured but, fortunately no one died.
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.
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 that poses needs no explanation.
While there is a plethora of traffic violations on a daily basis, some appear more prominent. Undertaking and cutting in front of a vehicle and the 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 they are the right-of-way. In the city, many roads, other than what are authorised for minibus routes, are used as thoroughfares. Speeding is foremost in 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, they are verbally abused when trying to stave off a potential transgressor. These practices are not unknown to the Police and while they cannot be at all points where violations occur, there is the expectation for more and sustained interventions in the interest of safety to all road users.
This does not take away from the valiant efforts of a few dedicated traffic officers who do their best to curb the situation; one which has reached alarming proportions. Reportedly many minibuses are owned by some Police ranks and the drivers are of the view that they have a free pass to break traffic rules.
That obviously empowers those errant drivers and causes others to do likewise.
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 authorized 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.