–following passage of Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2022 in National Assembly
WITH the aim of reducing the number of road fatalities caused by drunken and reckless driving, the National Assembly on Monday passed the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill.
Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn in his presentation supporting the bill, said the new amendment will put into focus revocations, suspensions and higher fines.
He further noted that the amendment will also foster a cultural change and a change in the way roadways are used.
“I think now we have a better course of action …we have not only the tools, but we also have to do the awareness, taking it to the population, clearly to drivers and would be drivers, what expectations are [and] what the legal sorts are,” Benn said.
Minister Benn said the Bill has been passed during a significant time, as the country recently recorded a reduction in road fatalities.
“For the first time in 16 years, last year we reduced road deaths in Guyana by 28.8 per cent in one year. We are now at this point slightly above that figure and so the being of this legislation is now even more important and significant,” he related.
In emphasising the physical and mental turmoil that is brought on by road fatalities and vehicular accidents, Benn said: “For every life lost, there are 15 other injured people and of that 15 the other half of them are permanently disabled either physically or mentally.”
Considering this, he said the objective of the new amendment is to add more tools, new resorts, new efforts, and new energy to the issue of road fatalities.
Going forward, Benn said more attention will be placed on the younger demographic of drivers.
“Our young people between the ages of 15-34 are the most severely impacted. Much more work has to come into play in respect of this cohort and also minibus operators, taxi operators in respect of [the]question of drinking and driving,” he said.
Given the incidents that occur on the road, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C., said the protection of citizens remains a top priority for the government.
“Public safety is an important objective and security-priority, of our government. An integral factor in the equation of public safety is [the] safety of our roadways. We must be able to traverse our roadways,” he said.
He added: “Our children must be able to traverse our roadways. Our citizens must be able to traverse our roadways with a sense of security and psychological peace of mind that some erratic, drunken driver is not using his vehicle as a lethal weapon along the roadways of this country. We must have that sense of security.”
Further, the Attorney General stressed that stakeholder collaboration is also needed to eradicate road fatalities from Guyana’s roadways.
“This can’t be the government’s job alone, and legislative changes alone can never be able to curb this horrendous, tragic loss of human life in our country,” he said, noting: “Every member of society, every responsible organisation in this country must join hands with our government, as we begin to chart a new course of making our roads safe.”
With the Bill passed, the charge of motor manslaughter will be introduced. This will see a person who causes the death of another by driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs being charged with motor manslaughter.
There are also harsher penalties for the cause of grievous bodily harm while driving under the influence of alcohol or a drug.
Currently, the penalty is a fine between $30,000 and $60,000, or 12 years in prison. The new legislation introduces a $200,000 fine for first-time offenders and no less than $300,000 for repeat offenders. The Bill also states that persons convicted under this section will be prohibited from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence for 12 months.
Additionally, the fine for driving or attempting to drive while blood alcohol levels exceed the prescribed limit will move from $7,500 to $200,000.
Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindhya Persaud, in supporting the Bill said it establishes the importance of assuming and acknowledging each person’s responsibility on the roadways.
“I hope that with these measures put in place through the new pieces of legislation, we can move in a direction where people see the need to have a Guyana that is completely law-abiding, really built on the fact that you need to preserve the life of every citizen of this country. Whether we choose to go about it in a non-thinking way or do it consciously and [as the] centre of who we are and what we are as Guyanese, we must be responsible people, she said.”
Adding to the debate, Minister of Education Priya Manickchand emphasised that the act will promote and encourage greater adherence to protocols to reduce fatalities on the roadways.
“That is what we seek here to do today: keep our human resources intact. Look after them, offer them opportunities and see them thrive and grow in this new Guyana that we envision,” the minister said.