Lewis unveils `draconian' steps to end road deaths
- retesting drivers detaining imbibers

By Andrew Richards
Stabroek News
October 22, 1999

The Guyana Police Force will take a draconian approach to curbing the road carnage which has escalated recently resulting in the loss of nine lives over the past six days.

There has been a huge increase in road fatalities this year in comparison to 1998 for the period up to October. According to statistics provided by the police, 113 persons were killed on the roads for this period last year, compared with 146 this year.

In view of the situation, Police Commissioner Laurie Lewis called an emergency press conference yesterday at the Police Officers' Mess, Eve Leary where he announced that the force will adopt a more agressive strategy to protect the lives of those who use the roads.

"We have come to a critical stage in the traffic history in this country. And when you come to a critical stage you have to take draconian action," the commissioner stated.

On Tuesday night one of two cars allegedly racing down Vlissengen Road smashed into two young men walking home from work, snuffing out their lives.

Lewis said the force conducted an analysis earlier this week on the lawlessness occuring on the roads and concluded that some people have embarked on a different form of suicide. He said the commanders of the traffic divisions in Georgetown, East Coast Demerara, Berbice and West Demerara have been called in to discuss the method to be used to curb the deaths on the roads.

Disclosing that a few months ago a request was made by some persons to have drag racing on Main Street, the commissioner said: "This is the level of nonsense and ludicrous behaviour that some people are contemplating."

The accident on Tuesday night resulted when one of the two speeding cars darted to the right to gain an advantage, Lewis said.

After the accident persons associated with one of the vehicles called in to say their car had nothing to do with what happened, he said, expressing bewilderment at the act.

Lewis expressed displeasure at persons who, he said, were in the habit of calling the police to seek the release of persons held for traffic offences before investigations are through. "We have not even begun to examine the situation in some instances and we are being called upon to release them [the alleged offenders] on bail," Lewis stated. "It worries me because it means that the same people who have been calling and complaining about traffic accidents and [querying] what we are doing about it... are asking that we release these people even before there is an enquiry."

Noting that some people will be inconvenienced by the initiatives taken by the police, Lewis said the public was being alerted that the force will take firm and decisive action because it could not allow the slaughter on the road to continue.

Drivers will be re-examined to determine if they are capable of using the road and if found to be unfit by the police their licences will be withdrawn, Lewis stated.

The commissioner reasoned that there have been over 64,000 traffic cases this year but this was having no effect on the road users therefore the force has no option but to apply more stringent techniques.

He said it was obvious that the fines and punishments were not good enough and the traffic tickets were piling up because the cases were not being tried.

Another measure to be implemented is to detain drivers who attempt to take control of their vehicles when they leave rum shops after imbibing alcohol, Lewis said.

Radar equipped police cars will be deployed at strategic points to look out for speeding vehicles which will also be detained, he stated.

Traffic Chief, Assistant Commissioner Paul Slowe, who accompanied the commissioner at the press conference, noted that the three major causes of accidents were speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol and the careless use of the roads by pedestrians and pedal cyclists.

Slowe said that among the steps to be taken was for the police to be on the look out for bicycles and animal-drawn vehicles without lights at night.

He said the force was working in collaboration with the Ministry of Works to remove encumbrances from the roadways such as sand, mud and paddy which cause drivers to take evasive action at the last moment.

Lewis disclosed that police in civilian clothes will be deployed to observe any affinity between traffic police and drivers, which result in the drivers being let off for offences. In these cases both parties are guilty and the situation will be arrested, he said.

Also at the press conference were Deputy Commissioner, Floyd McDonald; Deputy Commissioner (Operations), Winston Felix; and Police Public Relations Officer, Senior Superintendent Ivelaw Whittaker.

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