Let's aim big: Traffic Accident Reduction Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
January 7, 2004

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BEFORE yesterday, the last time we editorialized on traffic accidents was early July of 2003, after an accident at the junction of Church and Cummings Streets on the night of Friday, July 4, and another at Long Creek on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway on Monday, July 7, 2003 - two accidents in four days - had claimed the lives of six persons.

The emphasis is deliberate. In a bid to bring people to soberness about the traumatic consequences of road mishaps, we said in our July 8, 2003 editorial, titled "Aiming at accident reduction," that though it's generally said that accidents happen, data suggest that that's not so in every case; some accidents are caused.

By the account of the country's traffic officers, there are as many cases of speeding and alcohol-related accidents as there are accidents that take place beyond any significant measure of human control.

Traffic Chief Michael Harlequin affirmed his officers' findings at a news conference last week. In announcing that 168 people lost their lives in 156 recorded accidents in 2003, as against 157 fatalities from 132 traffic mishaps in 2002, Supt. Harlequin attributed "many" of those crashes to speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, inattentiveness on the part of motorists and pedestrians, and downright careless on the road.

Yesterday we suggested stiffer penalties, including a lengthening of the duration of license suspensions. But as we have stressed time and again, no matter how stringently the Police Traffic Department enforces the laws governing road usage, accident reduction will result only when Guyanese begin applying the five C's - courtesy, care, caution, consideration and common sense - on our roads.

Maybe, just maybe, there is more that can and that has to be done to reduce the number of traffic accidents in Guyana.

How about problem identification? A Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDot) study found that 80 percent of the motorists involved in crashes in one particular metropolitan area drove the same pattern each day. Another section recorded 178,000 accidents per day - one of the highest average daily traffic counts in that U.S. state!

MoDot then studied the accident rate for other areas, seeking to determine what needed to be done to reduce traffic mishaps across the state.

Similar studies here may find that there's a dire need for the deployment of more police personnel to enforce traffic regulations at critical times and at critical locations within the city limits.

One difficulty in analyzing accident patterns is that there doesn't seem to be any peak hour for traffic collisions in Guyana as appears to be the case in countries such as the United States. Attempts should be made, nonetheless, to evaluate trends in areas that tend to expose drivers' vulnerability to accidents.

Since speeding is a major factor in fatal collisions, the Police Traffic Department should also seek to acquire, through the Ministry of Home Affairs, traffic radar trailers with the ability to provide computer traffic counts, with speeds. This should enable the police to effectively enforce anti-speeding regulations.

But more than focus on enforcement arrests, the Traffic Department should also intensify efforts to decrease injury traffic collisions by continued emphasis on traffic reduction education. The Traffic Department should work closely with the Education Ministry to have certificate courses and/or seminar/workshops on traffic laws, "safe-and-sober" driving, and the meaning of the Five C's in road usage included in the school curriculum.

The accident that took two lives on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway on Friday, just three days into the New Year, was another shocker.

We simply cannot afford the luxury of traffic accidents, much less fatal ones. So let's aim big: let's aim for traffic accident reduction and for the saving of lives, including our own, on our roads.