Take accident reduction personally
Guyana Chronicle
July 28, 2003

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WHEN the Police Traffic Department began enforcing the country’s seatbelt law at the beginning of June, we editorialised our support for the initiative amid complaints by drivers and passengers alike that seatbelt wearing was a cumbersome, time-wasting exercise.

We felt, then, as Guyanese generally did during a national consultation on traffic law reform, that the institution of a seatbelt law was vital to reducing human injury and death from road accidents.

We still and will always support the enforcement of seatbelt legislation. Mandatory seatbelt wearing has proven the world over to save lives and curb the spate of serious injuries.

In cases where drivers and passengers refuse to wear seatbelts, the results have been tragic and traumatic. Recall, for instance, research revealing that in a part of England where only 48 per cent of adult and teenage passengers wear seatbelts in the back of a car, at least 40 of every hundred front seat passengers die each year because of those back seat passengers not wearing a seat belt.

Andy Huxley, lead spokesman for transportation of the Buckinghamshire County Council, said some time last year that, "The most common excuse used by members of the public for not wearing a seatbelt is that they had only driven a short distance down the road. Yet a high percentage of accidents happen on short trips. Additionally, back seat passengers are three times as likely to die or suffer serious injury in an accident while not wearing a seatbelt."

Even so, the accidents that have occurred in Guyana since the police began enforcing seatbelt wearing prove that responsibility for saving lives and minimizing accidents lies with road users themselves.

A large percentage of the traffic mishaps that occur on our roads can be attributed to speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, sleep driving - that is, people nodding as they drive - and the persistent belief by many drivers that consideration for how others use the road isn’t their business.

We’ve learned that the Ministry of Home Affairs is vigorously pursuing the acquisition of equipment that will allow the police to monitor speeding and identify those who drink and drive and place delinquent drivers before the courts.

Still, even as the police set out to implement strategies to achieve an undisclosed target of a reduction in road accident casualties, we support and join the Police Traffic Department, Mothers In Black and other traumatized families in appealing to road users to be very careful, even more careful than they have in the past, in the use of our roads.

We expect the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Public Works to contribute more to accident reduction through the placing of traffic lights and traffic signs all over the place, and through the intensification of road engineering measures.

The National Road Safety Association should also do more. It should examine accident and casualty trends on a city- and nation-wide basis and produce priority lists of sites for action - action that are designed to effect accident and/or casualty reduction.

Central and regional government, city and town municipalities, and village and neighborhood councils, must also seek to improve the environment of the area and reduce road safety hazards.

We must all take accident reduction personally.

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