Towards safer road usage Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
September 1, 2003

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WHEN the National Road Safety Week Planning Committee met last week with public transport owners, the theme of the meeting at Cove and John Police Station was, "Towards safer roads for use by all."

Coming a couple of days before the reopening of school, it was appropriate. We thought it was a little late in coming, though.

It's not possible to guage how quickly the results of that seminar will translate into more cautious, considerate, courteous, common sense driving.

In any case, because public transportation is spread across the country, the impact of the road safety committee's efforts will not transcend the national transport landscape in one fell swoop.

The hope is that observation of the five C's will ripple across the streams of public transport sooner than later.

Even as the Five C's message is diffusing among adult road users, however, the education system should assume an additional responsibility: teaching kids road safety.

We often hear that it's more difficult, if not impossible to change adult behaviour than it is to change adolescent perceptions.

If this saying holds true, then the Ministry of Education should extend the role of the school beyond participation by students in national road safety activities, to incorporating traffic safety in the school curriculum.

Statistics show that schoolchildren account for a horrendous death toll from the country's skyrocketing traffic accidents.

If we accept that today's children are our next-generation leaders - and that it's up to the next generation to change the way we think about road safety, surely teaching students traffic safety must be seen as a key to raising national awareness of safe road usage and lowering the death toll in road mishaps.

Mothers In Black has been doing a commendable job sensitizing road users, particularly drivers, to their responsibility to save lives. So have the Police Traffic Department and the National Road Safety Association.

But with automobile imports increasing faster than roads can ever be built, the country has found itself having to grapple with traffic congestion in a relatively limited area.

Added to this situation, too many people are either not aware of or simply ignore traffic rules.

The most common violations continue to be speeding, drunken driving and intimidation - the insensitive practice of trying to blow slower drivers off the road.

Admittedly, the Police Traffic Department can do only so much. Troubling road fatalities in countries that have the most sophisticated technologies indicate that the task of reducing accidents doesn't begin or end with the police.

The education system will have done a great job to complement other efforts if it took on the job of teaching the rules of the road as a compulsory subject at school.

As laypeople, we suggest that model games be placed in school compounds, in the Botanical Gardens and in parks, where nursery and early primary school children can practice driving small vehicles and obey traffic lights and signs. Nursery education should also include programmes where children can learn about traffic rules through songs, poems and plays.

We pray that adult road users will try that much harder from today to ensure that our students have an accident-free school year.