THE high incidence of road traffic accidents occurring over the weekend period continues to evade law enforcement efforts to reduce the number of road traffic accidents occurring on our roadways and the resultant fatalities from the same. Despite the efforts of the Guyana Police Force to maintain the safety of our roadways, there continues to be a high number of road traffic accidents which could have been avoided if road users applied due care and caution when using the roads.
At the middle of the year, there have been 66 road traffic accidents which has caused the deaths of 68 persons. This time last year, there were 49 accidents and 52 deaths. From the statistics, it appears as though we are on course to surpass the figures from the previous year, if the current pace is maintained for the remainder of 2020. There has been an increase in accidents of 35per cent and an increase of 31 per cent in deaths. Last year, in total, we recorded 108 road traffic accidents and 129 deaths caused by the same.
Over this past weekend alone, there were four separate road traffic accidents which caused the deaths of four persons with a number in critical condition. There appears to be a clear trend as we see time and time again that a large percentage of the accidents which occur tend to happen during the weekend period. And, even though we are currently under emergency measures in order to stem the spread of COVID-19, including a 6pm-6am curfew, the roadways continue to be utilized by commuters after the curfew has commenced as a number of accidents have occurred during this time period alone.
Accidents involving motorcycles have also been on the rise as an increasing number of commuters are tackling the crowded city streets by way of motorcycle, which is a cost-effective and convenient way of travel. However, many commuters who chose this method of transport flout the relevant road safety laws requiring helmets and other protective clothing to be worn. Additionally, the relatively relaxed requirements for motorcyclists continue to be a problem as, increasingly, younger and more inexperienced riders are taking to the roads. The end result is more reckless riding, speeding and blatant disregard for the rules of the road which ultimately has led to many young men in particular, losing their lives on the roads.
Despite the efforts of the GPF to educate road users on the dangers of reckless road use through various campaigns on the radio and television, we continue to struggle to inculcate upon some road users, the need to practice care and caution. In efforts to change the culture of road use in Guyana, the GPF had been making visits to schools in order to teach road safety and promote safe road use, that has now paused for COVID-19 related reasons but it remains the best way to reach the next generation of road users. But what more can be done for the adult population who are the biggest road users and who shoulder the greatest responsibility to end the culture of reckless driving in Guyana?
Perhaps it is time to review the process which enables persons to legally use the roads. It has been argued that there should be stricter licensing laws for individuals who intend to use the roads. Additionally, there should be better standardized theory and practical testing for perspective drivers governed by a separate agency responsible for the same. Perhaps there could be a points-based system introduced in order to identify road users who continuously infringe upon traffic rules by speeding, not wearing seatbelts and driving under the influence; some of the major causes of road traffic accidents. Perhaps, this points-based system could lead to a revocation of the individual’s driver’s licence, a fine or some other form of retributive justice.
In any case, in order to stop the avoidable loss of life by road traffic accidents, more must be done at all levels. Of course, the government shoulders responsibility for ensuring that the laws governing road use are sufficient and enforced, additionally, the physical infrastructure of our roadways must also be improved, maintained and further developed in order to cope with growing road use. However, as citizens we also shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that we use the roads safely and with proper care and due caution. We must continue to speak up against mini-bus drivers who speed and overload their buses. We must continue to caution our friends and family members who use the roads and remind them too of the importance of proper road use. We must continue to be vigilant and inculcate upon our children the importance of proper road use.