In recent years, a huge number of road users have lost their lives needlessly in Guyana. According to the Home Affairs Ministry, fatalities on Guyana’s roadways have increased by some 42% during the period January 1 to September 14, 2020 when compared to the corresponding period last year, and fatal accidents have gone up by 37% during the review period when compared to 2019.
Statistics show that motorcyclists are among the largest categories of road users killed for the year thus far. It was also found that road fatalities occur mainly on Saturdays and Sundays, between 6 pm and 12 midnight. Kaieteur News published an article containing a chart of accidents and deaths over the years 2005-2018, which reveals an average of 117 accidents and 133 deaths; meaning, there is at least 1 death for every accident, which when extrapolated indicates roughly 16 deaths per 100,000 persons.
As the country transforms into a high-tech vehicle state, the laws governing traffic infractions are, to say in modest terms, archaic and unfit, and embrace a Third World system of lopsidedness and porous enforcement regulations.
Successive regimes, with their hebetude-like approach to administration, have failed miserably to institute safeguards to curb the horrific numbers of road accidents, which produce lifelong disfigurement and fatalities that are perpetrated on a hapless, hopeless populace at the receiving end of the noveau riche with their ultra-modern mega-million-dollar vehicles but ultra-clumsy driving habits.
The huge influx of vehicles over the past decade carries terrible downstream effects in a country where egotistical, maniacal driving takes centre stage against the backdrop of a highly underpaid Police Force, notwithstanding constant allegations of persons obtaining licences under questionable and clandestine Police conduct.
Needles to state, the courts have failed miserably in giving the victims compensation and satisfaction, while allowing these drivers, who commit murder using their vehicles, to leave the courts free…and once again enter the killing fields.
Each year, a new crop of drivers gets behind the wheel. The most logical evaluation simply indicates that the excitement to drive precipitates careless road usage, while a huge preponderance of minibuses is driven by the younger stratum of society. I have long advocated, even corresponding with 2 former Home Affairs Ministers about the need for multi-level categories of licence.
Simply, one should not drive a commercial passenger vehicle without 5 years’ driving experience, accompanied with the necessary first-aid training and HAZMAT testing.
The Guyana Police Force has stated that the leading causes of traffic mishaps in the country are speeding and driving while under the influence of alcohol. Other major causes are driving while distracted by use of a cellphone, pedestrian inattentiveness, and failure to heed traffic signs and warnings. Road repairs, a seemingly perpetual dilemma, does not help neither. Poor lighting, absence of road markings, tinting, distractive loud music, encroachment by beer & food sheds, piles of sand, rice drying etc. all compound the dangers of both drivers and pedestrians.
By implementing heavy fines with a points’ system for violations and strict licence suspension, drivers would become more conscious of their responsibilities. Speed cameras, enforcement of speed zones, and more breathalyzer testing would greatly reduce accidents. Improved road conditions would alleviate the woes of meandering through the streets, as it is truly mind-boggling to see people driving Prado vehicles and Mercedes yet cannot fix a simple pot hole.
Finally, do not ever believe that speeding minibuses facilitate those late for work. Guyanese are not known to act with any form of alacrity and promptness in any sphere of activity (except perhaps a date or meeting at the rum shop).
Sadly, in the general lexicon of things, it seems obtaining a licence to drive implies a license to kill. It is the new pandemic.
Leyland Chitlall Roopnaraine