Road Safety on the roadways - this year's focus for World Health Day
A GINA feature
April 7, 2004
"Road safety is no accident" - this is the theme Guyana and the rest of the world will be observing on World Health Day, 2004.
Guyana has made strides in achieving and sustaining safety on the roadways. Hundreds of people lose their lives and many families are left with a void after their loved ones are mangled and killed on the roadways.
There has been an ongoing campaign by the Traffic Department for motorists to adhere to the rules and regulations of the Traffic Laws in Guyana.
Speeding is one of the main factors that cause fatal accidents on the roads ways. To reduce and minimise accidents, the Traffic Department has acquired radar guns, in an effort to curb speeding.
Four locations have benefited from these guns. They are New Amsterdam, Berbice, East Coast Public Road, the Linden-Soesdyke Highway and Central Georgetown.
Data from a research done by a consultant attached to the Ministry of Public Works, Dr. Gowkarran Budhu (deceased) indicated that the percentage of fatality by probable causes was: alcohol five percent, speeding 21 percent, pedestrian negligence 18 percent, cyclist negligence 15 percent, driver negligence 18 percent, losing control 14 percent and improper overtaking nine percent. This research was conducted in 2002.
Also, in an effort to reduce injuries in an accident, the seatbelt law was reintroduced. The Traffic Department has launched its campaign to prosecute drivers who failed to comply with the seatbelt law.
This Law initially was scheduled for enforcement since January 1, 2003, but drivers were given warnings and were told to have their vehicles adequately equipped with seatbelts to ensure compliance.
In May 2002, Government passed in Parliament the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2002.
"Seat belt" means any arrangement or assembly of straps with a security buckle adjusting devices and attachments anchored to the motor vehicle in accordance with section 45A (7) and is designed to diminish the risk of injury to its wearer in the event of a collision or abrupt deceleration of the vehicle by limiting body movement of the wearer.
The penalty for first offenders is $7,500 and no less than $10,000 and in the case of a second or subsequent offence, a fine of $10,000 and no more than $15,000.
A driver who conveys a child and fails to ensure that the child wears a seat belt or is conveyed in a child restraint system, if found guilty, will have to pay a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Since the seatbelt and helmet campaign began, there has been a significant decrease in persons being prosecuted by the Traffic Police.
There were 103 persons who were placed before the Courts on the first day the Traffic Department enforced the law.
To sensitize the public to the importance of wearing seatbelts and helmets, several top officials from the Traffic Department have made promotional appearances on televisions programmes.
Non-governmental organisations, such as the "Mothers in Black" and the Rotaries continue to play an important role in ensuring safety on the roadways.
Motorists at all times must exercise the five C's: care, caution, courtesy, common sense and consideration.
In a Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) newsletter, traffic related deaths have grown by a relatively small percentage since the mid-1990s.
Current health statistics published by PAHO on all traffic related incidents in the Americas rank the United State, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela as the five top nations.
However, on a proportional basis, the nation in the Americas with the highest rate of traffic deaths is Belize with 30.1 per 100,000 inhabitants.
It is followed by Guadeloupe 26; El Salvador 25.2; Guatemala 22.6 and Guyana 21.6.
From January 1, 2004 to April 5, 2004, 36 persons have lost their lives on the roadways.
Class of road users
No. of deaths
Passengers in lorries and vans
A release from the United Nations states, "Road safety is a crucial concern for both public health and development, and this year's observance of the World Health Day has generated much interest and enthusiasm ....... Building on this momentum, hundreds of groups around the world are focusing attention on the dreadful consequences of road traffic injuries, stressing that they are avoidable and calling for action to prevent millions of needless death and injuries."
More than 3,000 people are killed each day on the world's roads - yearly fatalities are estimated at 1.3million, in which the World Health Organisation (WHO) calls a hidden epidemic, that is only just beginning and that costs the world approximately 518 billion dollars.