The huge number of road fatalities over the past 3 months presents a staggering tragedy that requires immediate attention. For the period January 1 to February 18, 2023, 20 persons were killed on the roads as compared to eight (8) for the corresponding period in 2022, an increase of 150%.Here is a horrible example at the time of writing (March 07, 2023) Four persons, two men and two women were on Monday morning killed after the minibus they were in collided with a truck on the Greenwich Park Public Road, East Bank Essequibo (EBE). Dead are: Vernon Prowell,50, of Bent Street Wortmanville, Georgetown who was the driver of the minibus and Margaret Kennedy, a 72-year-old of Tuschen; Olga Reddy, a 57-year-old of Parika; and Elvis Charles, a 40-year-old of Ruby, E.B.E who were all passengers of the bus.
Here is another (KN) which occurred March 06: Police are investigating an accident that occurred on the Bramfield (No.19) Public Road yesterday morning, which resulted in the death of a hire car driver and a female passenger. The dead persons have been identified as Shelliza Alexis London, 26 and Qualis Crawford, 40.
In March 2022, Stabroek News carried a letter penned by the head of the Audit & Inspection Unit of the Guyana Police Force with some very disturbing revelations in regards to Drivers’ Licensing. The Unit found that 397 persons did not write examinations but received pass marks while79 persons did not register for any examination but received pass marks. Most comical was the fact that 21 persons received their pass results even before writing the exams!
Each year a new crop of drivers get behind the wheel. The most logical evaluation simply indicates that the excitement to drive precipitates careless road usage, while a huge preponderance of minibuses are driven by the younger strata of society, with scant experience. I have long advocated, even corresponding with 2 former Home Affairs ministers, about the need for multi- level categories of license. For instance, one should not drive a passenger commercial passenger vehicle without 5 years driving experience, accompanied with the necessary first aid training. Trucks transporting heavy loads like lumber, steel, sand etc. must have their engine and gear system altered to drive no more than say 30mph, with training in centrifugal shifting during turns, hydroplaning for wet weather, along with first aid certifications. No minibus driver in Guyana has any prescribed training in first aid; needless to state in passenger courtesy. Carriers of gasoline and flammable/corrosive liquids must have qualified in HAZMAT training with recertification every 2 years.
The Guyana Police Force 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, do not help neither. Poor lighting, absence of road markings, tinting, distractive loud music, encroachment by beer & food sheds, piles of sand and brick, rice drying etc. all compound the dangers of both drivers and pedestrians. (I suggest that all sand and brick be stored in canvas bags, like rice shipments, with fluorescent markings).
Is time for the Government of Guyana to establish a Department of Transportation to deal with the acquisition of Drivers’ licenses; guidelines for operating driving schools and the qualification required to be a driving instructor. It is time for the certification of motor vehicles to be done by competent persons other that the Certifying Officers of the Police Traffic Department; most of whom have no training as mechanics or related subjects and therefore do not possess the skills that are necessary to certify that a motor vehicle is fit to operate on the road. At this rate of dying on the roads there may not enough drivers left to utilize the roads.
Finally, it is time the President and his ministers realize that Guyana’s traffic has long outgrown its road network and seek alternatives in the transportation sector. As the Land of Many Waters, water transport should be more utilized thus lessening the burdens of the road system.
Leyland Chitlall Roopnaraine
Licensed driver (36 years)