Responsible Road Usage

The Mirror
March 12, 2000

The fatal accident that occurred at Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara, on Monday, March 6, has shocked us all.

We had barely recovered from the horror of the September 15, 1999 smash-up on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway that claimed six lives and the four-vehicle tragedy at Happy Acres, East Coast Demerara, on December 3 that took seven lives, when news of the March 6 crash came through. Then, as if all that wasn’t enough, another two persons died in separate accidents in Berbice and on the Essequibo Coast. 14 people dead on the road in three days!

The fact that a 15-seater minibus was traveling with 28 persons, and the fact that minibuses account for about 90% of the traffic accidents in Guyana of late, make a statement about the wanton risk that people take, and about the owner-driver-conductor culture that has emerged in the country. But why?

Some drivers and conductors claim that owners demand a daily turn-in of between $5,000 and $10,000 a day from them and that any attempt to negotiate a lower figure is met by assurances by “sharks” - their colleagues eager for the job - that the asked-for money is ‘makable.’ The result: speeding, volume-high music, and stopping to take in or put off passengers anywhere on the road on fiercely competitive routes. The driver’s motive is to make whatever money is demanded by the owner at the stipulated time, plus a little extra for him and his conductor. Commuters do not factor in this scenario, except to pay up at the end of their journey, if they survive.

Unless curbed, this culture of “commuter trafficking” could plunge our nation into a state of continual mourning.

Whatever commendable initiatives Cabinet and the police traffic department have decided on to guard against speeding and overloading, owners, drivers and conductors need to be more considerate of others. And commuters need to place more value on their lives. The survivors of these accidents should also become advocates of responsible road usage, relating their experiences and working with others to spare us more of the wanton suffering and loss to family and society that result from traffic mishaps.