Get down to the underlying causes Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
January 26, 2002

THE recent tragic deaths of four students at Greenwich Park, East Bank Essequibo, in yet another disastrous accident on our roads resulted in swift action by the authorities and another exercise is on to clamp down on speeding and other obvious causes.

This is commendable, but a sad feature of the Guyanese society is the tendency to be reactive rather than proactive, reacting to isolated incidents rather than dealing with problems in their entirety. A disturbing problem such as the extremely high rate of serious traffic accidents has to be dealt with in a sober, comprehensive, scientific and collective manner. With a population of less than a million we have a per capita road death rate higher than more populous countries both in terms of people and vehicles.

We must not treat the symptoms only but must get down to the underlying causes - that is the only way we would be able to arrive at the appropriate long-term solutions.

For example, the proposed seat belt law is good, but it is another case of treating the symptoms and not the cause.

The underlying cause in this country in relation to the traffic situation is one of attitude. The behaviour patterns of many drivers involved in serious accidents are usually reckless and irresponsible and transferred to the manner in which they drive. In fact, the deportment of many drivers, especially mini-bus drivers, is a fair reflection of the quality of their driving.

Apart from speeding and the other contributory factors, many accidents occur because of a lack of consideration for the other road user/users - which incidentally is among the five-Cs in the driving code. This lack of consideration stems from a selfish attitude, which is a growing national problem and would therefore obviously pervade driving.

Outbursts such as: "Leh he try deh", "He deh pun he own", "Dah is he problem" are common and reflect selfishness.

The attitude to driving is a microcosm of a national attitudinal problem and the Traffic Department should consider instituting an attitude test as one of the prerequisites before drivers are issued with licences.

Effective legislation while essential will be ineffective if not supported by a comprehensive range of measures, including programmes to rehabilitate attitudes.

There are also calls for legislation to make passengers guilty of an offence when they travel in overloaded vehicles. While the sentiment and intention of this suggestion is good, effective enforcing of such a law is easier said than done.

There are many instances where police officers travel in overloaded buses which bang away with the "Boom Boom boxes" and they do nothing about it. There are cases where the police carry out their duties effectively, but when the accosted appears in court he goes free or gets a penalty which is not reflective of the seriousness of the offence.

Perhaps as part of the national strategy to deal with the lawlessness on the roads, traffic education should become an integral part of the curriculum of the entire school system and taught as a compulsory subject and evaluated by regular testing just like any other academic subject.