Traffic Chief bemoans slackness on the roads

Guyana Chronicle
December 22, 1999

ONE-hundred-and-eighty-three people have died on Guyana's roadways this year so far, compared to 150 fatalities recorded during the same period last year.

And Traffic Chief, Mr Paul Slowe says the traffic situation "can be considered as a public health problem..."

Speaking Monday at the launch of the Charles Kennard Safe Drive Campaign at Park Hotel, Georgetown, he reiterated that people continue to use the road in a very "irresponsible" manner.

The theme of the Volunteer Youth Corps (VYC)-organised campaign aimed at reducing traffic hazards is `A Safe Drive Can Save A Life'.

The $3M project is expected to run from January to May, 2000.

Organisers said the decision to name the campaign after the late Charles Kennard, former Chairman of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), was taken at one of the VYC Planning Committees.

He was chosen for having been a Guyanese who has made a significant contribution to this country's development.

Addressing a gathering at the campaign launching, the Traffic Chief said he believes local insurance companies can play a significant role in dealing with public transportation.

The Police have found that these firms are eager to give all types of insurance coverage to mini-buses and hire cars, Slowe reported.

Usually, an "open insurance" is offered to owners, allowing them to employ anyone to drive a mini-bus.

"Some of them (mini-bus owners) entrust the vehicles (to persons) and they don't even know (their) names or address," the Traffic Chief stated.

He said insurance companies, in an effort to help stop the number of deaths on the roads, should stop giving "open insurance" for public transportation.

"(This) will go a long way in regulating the mini-bus industry...

"They can decide not to insure persons to drive a mini-bus if they are below a particular age...(They) should make sure the (insurance) coverage reflects the risk that the driver poses to other road users."

Slowe said there is no law in Guyana which deals directly with mini-buses.

"The law speaks of motor bus...Over the years when some decision was taken to free up the public transportation industry and people were encouraged to bring in mini-buses, they just adopted pieces of legislation to deal with mini-buses," he explained.

Even driving licences which are being issued now can be deemed as "one of the most outdated licence there is in the world", he argued.

"The system has to be fixed...There is a matter under investigation where the Licence Office is involved in all types of `skullduggery' in terms of the issuing of licence," Slowe pointed out.

He added: "Our problem is that if a man commits 100 violations (and) unless you have a good memory, there is no proper record to say that he has been charged on several occasions...

"Unless we realise how serious a situation we are in at the present moment, we are not going to be able to deal with the issue."

Slowe said a significant turnaround in the number of traffic accidents occurring in Guyana requires a public education campaign.

The Police, he added, have already written to the Education Ministry, the Ministry of Public Works and Communications and the Health Ministry seeking their involvement in this process.

The Charles Kennard Safe Drive Campaign has been designed with a major emphasis on mass communication using television, radio and newspaper advertisements to encourage the nation to use the roadways with greater care.

The Volunteer Youth Corps in partnership with other agencies intends to paint 50 pedestrian crossings, especially in the vicinity of schools located in "high traffic" areas.

At the end of the campaign some 50 traffic signs would be fixed and 50 new ones built and installed in specific districts. (SHARON LALL)

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