Yet again, Guyana has experienced another deadly accident resulting in five fatalities. Five persons, all of whom could have been working and assisting their families and helping in the development of their communities and country as a whole, are now dead. This is in addition to the dozens of persons who lost their lives during the course of the year due to some form of recklessness by drivers, or, in some cases, other road users. As the year draws to a close, more than 18 persons have died in less than 30 days. Thus far, more than 100 accidents have claimed the lives of more than 120 persons.
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. The year 2019 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 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; 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 schools’ 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.