Another tribune for accident reduction Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
March 18, 2004

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WHEN the Police Traffic Department began enforcing the country's seatbelt law at the beginning of June last year, we editorialized 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're expressing another tribune for accident reduction because reports are coming through that the non-wearing of seatbelts is a major factor in some accidents still resulting in serious human injury.

We remain supportive of the enforcement of seatbelt legislation because mandatory seatbelt wearing continues to be proven worldwide as responsible for saving lives and curbing spates 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.

But the authorities need to hasten strategies to ensure that seatbelts be worn by 'back seat' passengers as well as those in the front seats of buses or automobiles and other four-wheel vehicles. 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 - and to urge those who can, to begin insisting on passengers behind the driver's seat wearing seatbelts, too.

We also 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 neighbourhood councils, must also seek to improve the environment of the area and reduce road safety hazards.