‘Deeply distressing’

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President David Granger

…President laments ‘insane rise in road accidents
…restates three-point approach to road safety

President David Granger has once again insisted that more must be done to prevent deaths, disabilities, injuries and damage to property on Guyana’s roadways as he finds “deeply distressing” the number persons who have lost their lives in road accidents recently and in the past.

In a message to the nation on Wednesday, the Head of State lamented the preventable loss of lives of 21 persons, including three children, in 15 road accidents in November alone. Altogether, his statistics put forward show that 114 persons – including 9 children and 30 pedestrians—were killed in 97 road accidents this year while young persons between the ages of 16 and 42 years comprised more than three out of every five fatalities.
“I extend the sympathy of my Cabinet and Government to the relatives, families and friends of those who have been killed or injured as a result of road accidents. I wish the survivors a speedy recovery. Road accidents represent a threat to human safety. Every accident is one too many; every death is too great a loss that our country cannot afford,” the President said.

However, he noted that the “insane increase in road fatalities” have been caused primarily by speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, inattentive driving and driving on roads which are congested or unsafe for other road users.

Even as the President urged road-users to observe the Guyana Police Force’s (GPFs) code of behaviour – care, caution, consideration, common sense and courtesy – as they utilize roadways, he pointed out some of his own proposals made at the launch of Road Safety Month, on November 4, 2015. The three-point approach includes stricter enforcement of existing traffic laws; increased road safety education and improved road signs and infrastructure.

Speaking to the first, he explained that stricter enforcement will promote greater safety on the roads especially in the areas of driving under the influence, the use of cellular phones while driving, distracting music, speed limits, passenger and cargo overload and regular and rigorous patrols of well-known high-risk zones.

Regarding improved road signs and infrastructure, he said that pedestrian ‘zebra’ crossings and lane lines which must be visible on all roads; traffic policemen must be deployed at high-risk zones to deter lawlessness especially during the nights and weekends; no-parking zones and bus stops must be marked; traffic signals should be maintained in working condition; sidewalks, pavements and overpasses must be installed where possible and overall improved engineering solutions must be pursued.

As a first for Guyana, the government has installed overpasses located at the busy Peter’s Hall intersection, in the vicinity of the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) and at Houston, Eccles, Providence and Diamond for the safety of commuters. The overpasses have also been equipped with elevators to cater for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs). Meanwhile, in mid- 2018 the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, through an $87M programme, had moved to install new traffic signal infrastructure at 51 intersections in the country with several others set for first quarter of 2019.

Several new traffic signs had also been placed around the city even though some had been subject to vandalism. In October, as another first, the Government commenced the process to place lights on the Soesdyke-Linden Highway with the installation of lamp posts along the thoroughfare. The government has also accepted funding from outside sources such as the Japan Non-Project Grant for the procurement of thousands of LED street lamps for greater visibility.

However, more still needs be done in the form of a collective effort as the President stated: “I am confident that the Government, Police Force, non-governmental organisations – such as Regional Road Safety Associations – and civil society could combine their efforts to make road use safe for everyone.”

The final point in the President’s three-point approach was for greater road safety education through a systematic and sustained countrywide campaign. He said that passengers must have an interest in their own safety discourage vehicles they travel in from overloading, speeding or playing excessively loud music. The President similarly called for the drivers’ licensing process to be strengthened to ensure that only responsible persons are certified to drive vehicles.