Recently, there has been a massive increase in traffic accidents that has resulted in a substantial upsurge in fatality on our highways. The nation has not been able to come to grips with the fact that since the turn of the century, traffic fatalities have been on a constant increase every year. For example, statistics released by the Traffic Department revealed that fatalities on Guyana’s roadways have increased by some 42% during the period January 1, 2020 to September 14, 2020 compared to an increase of 37% during the same period in 2019. Data obtained from the police show that motorcyclists are the victims of a large number of traffic deaths and that the killings on our highways occur mostly on weekends. On an annual average, there have been 117 traffic accidents that have resulted in 133 deaths between 2005 and 2018, which means that there has been at least one traffic death for every traffic accident. The World Health Organization estimates that in terms of traffic deaths, Guyana ranked 94th in the world with 17.3 traffic deaths per 100,000 population.
The influx of approximately 10,000 modern, computerized vehicles annually into Guyana has placed severe strain on the country’s roads which in turn has led to a steep rise in traffic infractions and deaths. Governments past and present have been unable to cope with the rapid increase of vehicles and have failed to institute safeguards on the highways to curb the horrific numbers of road accidents some of which have led to deaths and permanent disability. Most traffic accidents are caused by inebriated and reckless drivers who normally leave the scene of accidents so as to avoid breathalyzer tests, charges of causing death by motor vehicles and the suspension of their drivers’ licence. Legislation to punish errant drivers and motor cyclists by imposing and mandating the use of safety devices such as seat belts and safety helmets is already in place, but in many cases, they are not being enforced by police.
Carnage on the roads in Guyana has reached crisis proportions and it seems that there is no end in sight. Almost every day, someone is killed or maimed in a traffic accident. If this trend continues, there is no telling what will happen. Road fatalities continue to devastate the country and its people. It has become a major problem and is wreaking havoc on the lives of those who have to cope with the pain and the loss of loved ones. In recent times, mostly youths have been the victims, struck down in some cases by inexperienced drivers and in others, by drunk and speeding drivers. Most drivers do not show even the slightest remorse for their roles in the mayhem as their vehicles have become killing machines.
The mayhem on our roads continues unabated and there seems to be no comprehensive strategy to combat it and ease the suffering. Hardly a day passes without heartbreaking messages being conveyed to families about the death of their loved ones. It may sound repetitive, but there are too many reckless and drunk drivers on our roads.
How much more can people take before a solution is found? Nothing seems to guarantee safety on the roads today. Very few drivers obey the rules and speed limits, and they seem not to care for their own lives, much less the lives of others. How many more will have to die before the slaughter on the roads ends. What kind of society we have become? It seems that the police have given up on saving lives on our roads as traffic fatalities have become an epidemic in the country. Plans must be developed to deal with what is arguably one of the most unsettling problems facing the nation. The carnage on the roads is disconcerting. Meaningful intervention is urgently needed to make the roads safer, end the fatalities and the pain and suffering of the people.
Drivers, young and old, male and female should be properly trained to accept the responsibility which comes with being behind the wheel of a vehicle. They need to know that the road system comprises: (i) the roads (ii) vehicles, and (iii) drivers and pedestrians. They interact with each other and sometimes with other external elements such as animals and the weather, therefore it is important for drivers to understand the nature of this interaction and the likelihood and severity of risks associated with them, if the rules are not followed. Some have argued that drivers are not the only ones to blame for the traffic fatalities. Unfortunately, this is true because many of our roads and highways suffer from poor quality pavement surface, narrow lanes, poor signage and lane demarcation, illegal lane changes and the proper street lightening required for night driving. Law enforcement officials have apparently done all they can so far, but they have not been able to reduce the spate of accidents and fatalities on the roads. While those in authority talk about curbing traffic fatalities, lives are still being lost daily on our roads. The roads have and continued to be the country’s death chamber. How many more lives can we afford to lose in this manner? Traffic accidents have become new pandemic in Guyana. However, it is not beyond us to end the human slaughter on the roads. Our society is a small one and should be manageable.