GUYANA continues to lose its most import resource through road accidents. There is no denying that the Police Traffic Department is trying to manage road users, but there comes a time when interventionist approaches must be taken to stem what is evidently a disturbing trend.
Accidents don’t happen, they are caused; and in aiming for reduction and possible elimination, the cause/causes must be addressed. It must be distressing to any society to be losing its most vital resource — its people — through avoidable occurrences. Road accidents can be avoided, and therefore must be avoided.
The Traffic Department is not the only means to achieving this. The time has come for bold, decisive actions to be taken to deter accidents. The penalty attached to this crime must be strengthened with the goal of making it avoidable. This means that our traffic laws must accordingly be amended.
At the same time, it may be useful to address having violators do community service immediately after conviction. This can take many forms, including cleaning the streets and sharing their experiences that led to the accident. The admonition by our elders that ‘those who can’t hear will feel’ must inform penalty.
The traffic infrastructure, i.e. the signals (lights and signage), along with sidewalks, must be revisited. This must be done to ensuring signals are working. The pedestrian crossings and other signs must be visible for all to see. In relation to our roads, they have, for far too long, been dangerously constructed, meaning that they are without sidewalks and the shoulders have not been properly tapered. The absence of sidewalks where needed not only puts the lives of pedestrians as risk, but some motorists see this category of road users as a nuisance or hindrance in allowing them to use the road as they feel. This statement of fact does not ignore that some pedestrians use the roads badly. These practices must stop.
Our road culture has become crude and selfish. The building and maintenance of roads have also fallen prey to this primitive outlook. Contracts for building roads — be those roads main or secondary arteries — must require, where possible, that sidewalks be built and the shoulders tapered. Our roads must also be constructed within a foundation, and to specific standards in keeping with our climate, traffic types and volume, factoring in at least 20 years of planning. Quick fixes or cosmetic measures in building and maintaining our roads must no longer be acceptable.
Eleven-year-old Simon Christopher Kendall of Number 46 Village, Corentyne, East Berbice was on Thursday fatally hit down on that road by a speeding car as he was heading to assist his family on a farm. According to reports, he was walking in the corner of the road in company of his brother, who narrowly escaped being hit. This was a young first-former with a future of limitless possibilities before him. His life was snuffed out by a motorist who allegedly had no regard for the traffic laws. Driving above the speed limit is a crime. Drivers have been taught in driving school not to accelerate on entering a turn.
The insurance companies must move to increase the cost of motor vehicle policies for those who are involved in accidents. The senseless use of our roads and less-than-acceptable construction of our roadways must be addressed. Government must provide the Judiciary and Guyana Police Force with the needed resources to charge, sentence and fine violators, and have the traffic infrastructure modernised, visible and working.
Simon could have been anybody’s child. The pain and anguish being faced by his family are ours. Families like Simon’s must no longer weep and wail for losing their loved ones through the senseless acts of others; neither must their tears be those of hopelessness: that nobody cares and nothing will be done to stop the madness on our roads. Enough is enough.