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There are too many road accidents and deaths resulting from. The New Year is less than five days old and Guyana has already begun on a bad footing. The pattern with these accidents is that they result in injuries, deaths, and disability. Very few escape unscathed. Accidents do not happen, they are caused and it is the causative factors that need to be avoided. At the basic of road safety is the warning that speed kills. It is not accident that roads and highways have speed limits and universal signs. These are placed after careful study with the aim to avoid accidents and facilitate courteous use of the roads.
According to global statistics (World Health Organisation), Guyana in 2018 ranked 94 among other countries on Road Accidents Death Rate. The figure in that year was 128 deaths, with an adjusted death rate of approximately 17.29 people for every 100,000 which is 2.15 percent of the population. In 2019, 129 deaths were recorded. The figure for 2020 is not yet released but it is likely to be around the same ballpark or higher given that as of November there were 125 deaths. These numbers confirm that Guyana has a serious road user problem.
The roads are not racetracks nor are the vehicles racing cars or buses but the speed at which some drive on the road gives pause to whether they understand and appreciate that this public thoroughfare is for the use of the common good. Road courtesy is often cast aside and very often, notably with the commercial vehicles (minibuses, taxi, hire cars), it is as though these drivers have a rendezvous with death. They not only drive beyond the speed limit but stop and pull off without regard for road etiquette. The private cars are not too far behind in similar behaviours.
Basic road etiquette such as a vehicle moving from a non-priority to a priority road would see those in the priority road refusing to give way for the other vehicle to enter the priority road. Some drivers behave as though traffic signals are hindrance rather than safety measures. Those who do not accelerate when the light represents amber, which means proceed with caution, flirt with death by driving through the red light.
Some others as soon as the light changes to green they begin honking horns as though the drivers in front have fallen asleep at the wheel. Other drivers will see pedestrians using the crosswalk and rather than let them cross safely they drive up behind, honking their horns or revving their engines, causing fear which could result in accidents. There is also the dangerous tendency to undertake rather than overtake, catching other drivers off guard, which can contribute to accidents.
Every traffic sign and symbol on the road is designed with the safety of the road user in mind be that person pedestrian, cyclist, or motorist. A young nation and small population as ours every life is important. And while some drivers think they are invincible, they have to remember the use of the roadway is not only for them but equally for others. They need not forget the trauma inflicted on their loved ones when there is damage to vehicle, injuries, loss limbs or life.
It is recognised commercial vehicles may feel the need to speed to meet the owners’ target for the day and or be able to make a little extra for themselves. While this hustle has become part of the minibus culture and understood, money must not come at the expense of safe use of the road and the lives of self and others.
Outside of speed and road rage there is the dangerous tendency to drink and drive. Drunk driving kills. Drinking impairs judgement. A driver whose judgment is impaired imperils not only his or her life but that of others. The presence of Traffic Officers serves as reinforcers of the traffic laws but there need not be that presence to obey, at all time, traffic rules and etiquette.