Sustained activity in a crisis situation

by Joyce Sinclair
Guyana Chronicle
July 24, 2000

THERE is a characteristic about us as Guyanese that reveals itself whenever we sense that we are in a crisis situation. We become very passionately emotional.

For a week or two, we write articles and letters to the press. Call-in programmes are arranged. There is `Man in the Street' I wonder why not `Woman in the Street' `Straight Talk', `Plain Talk',`Issues in the News' and lots of others that provide an opportunity to the public to, as it were `vent their spleen' or say how they feel on various matters.

Regrettably, however, our response is rarely sustained. We blow up for a while, get very agitated, condemn and accuse, but soon return to the comfortable, peaceful state we were in prior to the event, while we wait the next crisis.

I am here referring to the situation in Guyana with the carnage on our roads. The Police Department is currently active doing its best to step up its enforcement of the law. We do not know how long this campaign will last. But, all of us citizens who leave home every morning walking, riding, driving or to be driven, hope that this response will be sustained for a very long time.

However, this society needs much more than enforcement of the law and payment of fines. We need on-going programmes that provide education in road courtesy and good manners.

According to the Police Department, our problems lie in speeding, drinking and driving, unlicensed drivers, flouting the law, defective vehicles etc. I agree with the above, but I would like to add that there is not enough education in road courtesy. We also need innovative ways to promote this kind of education. We need this everyday, every month, every year in every place.

This, however, must not be left to the Police Department alone. All our social organisations and groups need to address this question. Help needs to be offered to the Hire Car Drivers Association and to the Mini-bus Drivers Association.

We need to deal with road courtesy differently from how it was dealt with years ago and currently being dealt with in order to quality for a driver's licence. Even after the licence is secured, we need to get the feeling that public education in road courtesy is continuing.

We need to deal with:

*the use of horns at Red Lights
*the use of horns as soon as the light changes from red to green
*the purpose of queues, i.e. coming out from a queue because you are in a great hurry, forming a third queue on a road not designed for it, thereby causing more problems and traffic hold-ups
*allowing drivers to cross or turn when there are long lines of traffic
*stopping to allow drivers to come out of parking places
*stopping at pedestrian crossings to allow pedestrians to cross
*turning suddenly in front of another driver without signalling
*lack of consideration for other drivers
*the need by the end of the day to make $X come what may.

How about advertising road courtesy? Would our business firms not be willing to sponsor advertisements in all types of media on road courtesy the way they sponsor ads on soaps, dog food, franking machines or mattresses? Guyanese are very creative. I feel confident that the professionals in this area would do us proud if they were to devote some attention to this aspect of our current crisis. It does have a bearing on the speeding, the crashes and the deaths.

I, like so many others, have seen in several of our sister CARICOM countries various sustained, creative approaches to the problem of road accidents and attempts at discipline on the roads. These are some of the things we should be copying from others. They can help us.

I used to enjoy Ron Robinson's programme in the mornings, during which he called the numbers on the licence plates of mini-buses that broke traffic rules, or threw food boxes through their windows, or splashed a passer-by. This, however, should not be the burden of one person only. How about an outside broadcast traffic team twice or three times per week? How about their commenting not only on those who break rules but those who are doing the right thing.

Our innovative response should also include the citizenry, educating them on their role viz-a-viz the road crisis. Serious problems require serious, innovative and sustained responses, not just a response lasting two or three weeks.

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