A new road culture By Lomarsh Roopnarine
Guyana Chronicle
January 18, 2002

THE recent spate of accidents and road fatalities has raised a wave of opinions in various sectors of our society, including the Government, as to what should be done to stop the carnage.

While these opinions differ in temperament and solution, they reveal there is a growing and serious awareness about the dangers associated with speeding and reckless driving. This awareness has come at a time when there has been an increase in the loss of unnecessary lives.

But nonetheless, an opportunity has surfaced and a concept of unified nationhood can be built to tackle lawlessness on the roads, which has continued to tarnish and traumatise this nation.

Road mayhem cannot be eliminated overnight for it is a system usually built over years.

But positive measures coupled with the right mechanisms can ensure better use of roads and the respect for policies. The involvement of citizens in this endeavor as a partner is vital and important.

Undoubtedly, our road culture has gone out of control, approaching dangerous heights. Reckless speeding and over capacity passengers were main factors contributing to the death of four students last week.

Since this road slaughter, various opinions have been raised how to embrace this unnecessary evil. Ultimately, caution and tolerance, as it has proven elsewhere, will be the best solution.

In the upcoming months the Government and the public will be faced with a tough challenge trying to transform a road culture which has been so accustomed to road abuse and lawlessness into one that is law abiding. Much emphasis will be placed to impose stiffer traffic laws supported by stern Police work.

New legislation will be introduced to bring in radar guns, breathalysers and the use of mandatory seat belts. Some have even recalled the installation of mechanical devices in vehicles to check rising fatalities on the roads.

Only time will tell whether these policies will help to restrain drivers and stop the road carnage.

In all likelihood, these are intended and will help to make a difference and reduce road madness, which regrettably, has led to the snuffing out of the most important resources in our society: human beings. Reducing wanton road fatalities will depend on how effective the traffic department is in stamping out drivers who are plying the roadways with licences acquired under fictitious grounds and those who pay scant regard for human lives.

But while the Government and Police shoulder the responsibility for providing a safer road culture for the general public, citizens must be involved and must play a meaningful role.

Our children should be taught how to use the roads more wisely. Commuters also ought to exercise sound judgement when using roadways and should be bold enough to withstand being bundled into already overcrowded vehicles.

They must, when travelling, summon the will individually or collectively to voice their opinion against speeding and reckless driving to the Police and the Police must do their job. The weeding out of reckless drivers is one sound way to reduce road carnage.

These initiatives together with a computerised traffic department can be long-term goals that the Government, the private sector, and development agencies can give some serious thought to.

Our road fatalities have now reached new heights that have benumbed and reverberated across the entire nation.

Our road culture has created a dangerous precedent, a national embarrassment, not to mention the negative reputation it has earned in the Caribbean and more distant enclaves.

This cannot be avoided because road deaths are incongruous to growth and development, and an increase in loss of life does not help to improve the economy.

The Government alone cannot battle these hurdles; every citizen must accept his or her share of responsibility and obligation and do his/her part to bring sanity to our road culture.