Many traffic laws continue to be broken with impunity
January 21, 2002
Over the past few days, four young lives were lost as the result of an accident on the East Bank Essequibo road.
There is clear evidence that the vehicle was overcrowded. There is a law against that. There is also evidence of distraction, caused by pre-occupation with the operation of the boom box. There are also regulations against that. There seems to be consensus amongst the onlookers that the vehicle was being driven at a rate of speed which was in excess of the prescribed limits. This too was against the law.
All in all, what we have here is a classic example of what happens on the roadways of this country on a daily basis, as minibuses and other categories of road users ignore the rules intended to govern usage of the road. Enforcement is the problem.
Complaints about the propensity of minibus operators to cram those vehicles with numerous members of our school aged population are numerous. But this practice continues.
One may be forgiven for concluding that the attitude of the police toward this particular type of breach of the traffic laws is too benign and tolerant to be entirely gratuitous.
Of course after that accident, and as has become customary, 'Mothers in Black' issued their usual denunciatory statement. But nowhere in their release did they pledge to mount a Mad Mother Mobilisation campaign, with a view towards conducting patrols during peak periods in an effort to aid enforcement of adherence by drivers to the traffic laws. This was disappointing because it is quite obvious that while vigils and press releases have their roles and purposes, they will do very little by way of actually confronting and correcting the defaulters' action on the ground. The need exists for pro active as against reactive responses to this malady. It suddenly seems that the fire has gone out from under a pot which had been labelled 'Traffic Regulations Reform'. This great consultation which was supposed to have produced redress for the ills of traffic management, seems to have fizzled out.
The principal problem is that of enforcement. To indicate that this nation is really serious about gaining the upper hand in the battle for control of the traffic situation, it will be necessary to have the following things done expeditiously.
1. Measures must be tightened so that the licensing process becomes more than the commodity exchange which it presently is.
2. The process of the authentication of documentation must be automated, be made easily and universally accessible and be made current.
3. The enforcement of suspensions and revocations of drivers' licenses must be rigid and be sterilized of the various avenues whereby they are presently circumvented.
4. The insurance companies must become meaningful partners in the creation and management of databases pertaining to vehicle and operators' registration and certification.
5. Non governmental groups must be involved as active traffic auxiliaries. They could provide personnel to mount patrols during peak periods. They could assist in night time surveillance activities and they could lend general support in other areas of traffic management.
6. The judicial machinery must modify its approach to traffic offences. Sentencing must be more realistic and reflective of societal disfavour.
Court processes must be simplified, expedited and decentralised. Night courts, lay magistrates and community service alternatives must be imaginatively introduced speedily.