Breathalyser testing on cards in new road safety action plan
Stabroek News
April 9, 2004

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The introduction of breathalyser testing to stop driving under the influence of alcohol is on the cards in a new inter-sectoral road safety action plan.

Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy alluded to this development in his keynote address on Wednesday at the World Health Day ceremony on Croal Street in front of Demico House. A public education campaign on Road Safety in Guyana was also launched at the event.

The observances this year under the theme "Road Safety is No Accident" are focusing on raising awareness about road traffic injuries, their grave consequences and enormous costs to society.

Minister Ramsammy noting that road safety presented one of the most significant public health issues, said that his ministry would be playing a leading role in advocating the reduction of driving under the influence and the accidents associated with this.

He pointed out that the cost to the country of medical care and loss of productivity as a result of road accidents is between $500M to $1B, or more than 1.5% of the national budget.

Among other issues, the minister highlighted problems being created by persons who insist on using their cell phones while driving.

Ramsammy also disclosed that consideration is being given to launching a National Committee on Road Safety that would involve the Ministries of Health, Home Affairs, Education, Public Works and civil society organisations. In addition, a full-time Health Safety Officer is to be appointed to focus on road safety issues.

A novel feature of the World Health Day programme unfolded when some parliamentarians sought a firsthand experience of public transport by travelling to the event by minibuses via regular Georgetown routes.

Sheila Holder of GAP/WPA said her ride was quite troubling as it raised issues of disregard for speed limits and commuter safety. She called for focus on "best practices" to ensure the viability of the commuter services and the safety of the country's human resources.

Leader of ROAR Ravi Dev spoke about the problems of poor road surfaces, including those pitted with craters, while on many roadways there are no demarcations for pedestrians. Raphael Trotman of the PNCR had a pleasant ride, but he urged that attention be paid to various forms of illicit behaviour on buses.

And Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister Manzoor Nadir, recalling that he has been associated with the minibus mode of transportation for sometime, raised the question of indisciplined bus operators who are a major cause of road accidents.

Meanwhile, PAHO Country Representative Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi underscored her organisation's resolve to promote an inter-sectoral educational approach towards reducing deaths on the road.

Theodore-Gandi in her address at the event noted that road safety in Guyana requires deliberate action from all road users. Referring to accidents on the road she said, "we don't have to tolerate it," and called for the necessary commitment to bring about the required change.

PAHO/WHO Guyana Health Promotion Officer, Renee Franklin Peroune who chaired the ceremony noted that this was the first time that 100 countries worldwide were promoting road safety as the theme for World Health Day.

Members of organisations designated to be a part of the inter-sectoral approach to road safety delivered World Health Day messages highlighting the need to educate all road users, especially the younger members of society.