I write this in response to the letter entitled “Speed bumps place our country in danger”, appearing in Guyana Times and Kaieteur News in recent days.
I can empathize with the writer. I, too, thought that speed bumps were costly and backward: installed by and for backward people; until I came to the USA, being driven and later driving myself along the local roads in and around Washington, DC.
There are many more speed bumps here than I remember in the Guyana that I left, and I know of more being put in. I saw three bumps installed on the not-quite-a-mile stretch of road along Little Falls Parkway, connecting River Road to Massachusetts Avenue, on my daily commute to our Embassy.
As I recall, a consultant’s report to our Ministry of Works, about 2004, suggested that, on some measures, our accident rates in Guyana were ten, twenty times what they were in the USA! The main causes were, and still are, too much speed, and driving under the influence of alcohol. We grew up accustomed to driving as fast as potholed roads and aging vehicles would allow us, and continued the same habits with more powerful vehicles and better roads. We must now conform to the posted speed limits, as they do here in the USA.
With development, we need new habits: we have been, and still are, too tolerant of ourselves and others driving under the influence of alcohol. Our high accident and death rates are no accident.
Let me admit that for much of the time that I headed our Ministry of Works, I was reluctant about installing speed bumps; I thought that my fellow Guyanese are sensible enough not to need such. I can say now that it is evident that all of us humans are susceptible to the thrill of speed: it is human nature, and speed bumps help us all to protect ourselves from ourselves.
If I were to suggest one thing that has struck me, moving at a senior age to a developed country, it is the greater need for regulation and order, self-discipline and responsibility in this more developed location. So, I have myself been observing and learning to leave earlier for appointments, to avoid the need to speed, and I notice the great courtesy all around that keeps the traffic flowing much faster than when everyone is pushing and jostling to get ahead of everyone else (like in the Guyana I left).
In this regard, let me tell of the 4-way-stop signs which I found so intriguing at many intersections. There is an understanding and conformity that everyone stops at the line at such an intersection, and waits on everyone who had stopped before him/her. Would be of benefit in Guyana, but I can’t yet imagine my fellow Guyanese conforming to it. Not yet ready to suggest it to my friends and comrades Bishop Juan and Mr Benn. Perhaps we should try; I would like to be surprised.
The people in the developed countries have learnt (most probably through painful experience) that great self-discipline, responsibility, and order (and props like speed bumps) are what make for a developed society.
Samuel AA Hinds
Ambassador to the