Acting Police Commissioner Nigel Hoppie, DSM, on Thursday met with the heads of the traffic departments countrywide, as part of their quarterly review, where he announced that there has been a 20.8 per cent increase in road accidents in 2019. He also highlighted the importance of monitoring and evaluation of the Traffic Department.
The meeting comes on the heels of another deadly accident with the country’s roads claiming the lives of two young people in Linden, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice). The couple, Sheshyka Ettienne, 21, and O’neil DeYounge, 24, were killed on Monday evening about 20:30h in a collision along the Amelia’s Ward Public Road and Toucan Drive in Linden.
Hoppie also implored that “one death is one too many”, pointing out that there is also a 19.2 per cent increase in deaths resulting from fatal accidents for the period of January 1 to April 3, 2019.
The two most recent deaths are in addition to the dozens of persons who lost their lives owing to some form of recklessness 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. 2017 will go down as yet another year when Guyana experienced some of the most horrific road accidents resulting in the loss 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 a loved one due to road accidents, most of which could have been avoided.
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 traffic laws 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; eg 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.
Further, in addition to enforcement of the traffic laws, there are several actions which could be taken immediately to reduce the number of road accidents here. To begin with, the authorities should start fixing all the potholes on our streets and highways which no doubt pose a serious threat to people’s lives.
Additionally, the authorities should immediately start clearing the parapets and roadways of all encumbrances such as old, abandoned vehicles, tractor trailers, carts, etc, as these have been known to contribute to accidents. At the same time, tougher action should be taken against persons who are bent on encumbering the roadways.
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 school’s curriculum 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.
There seems to be no effective leadership, both from a political as well as an administrative/technical standpoint to confront the challenge. 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 has failed the nation.
For a small country such as ours, we cannot afford to continue along this path. The number of deaths and disabilities as a result of road accidents is indeed very worrying and something must be done urgently to bring a halt to the level of irresponsibility and recklessness on our roadways.