Road safety is a shared responsibility
Says Minister Rohee

Guyana Chronicle
November 27, 2006

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THE Government is “beyond the stage of platitudes” when it comes to the issue of road safety which demands a multi-sectoral, multi-disciplined approach, according to Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee.

Road safety is a shared responsibility that should be used to guard against the danger of becoming fatalistic, Rohee said.

In a message on the occasion of Road Safety week which begins today, Minister Rohee is calling on all Guyanese to “genuinely refuse to regard injury, loss of life and property through traffic accidents with indifference and resignation”.

“It is a tall order, but lessons from further afield have made one thing clear: it is by changing mentalities that we will, together, manage to win this collective and individual struggle to save lives and prevent injuries,” the Minister posited.

In this regard, he noted that mortality from road traffic accidents in Guyana is a leading cause of death in the general population.

Out of 142 fatal accidents in 2005, 157 lives have been lost. Rohee said the full impact of this level of loss is perhaps made clearer when Guyanese look at it in a global context.

According to him, it represents a death rate of 20.9 persons per 100,000 which is amongst the highest in the world.

For this year to date, a reduction, to 102 deaths, or 13 per 100,000 population, has been achieved. But the rate of death for children has increased from 17 of the 157 deaths in 2005, to 18 of the 102 this year.

Expressed as a percentage of the actual deaths, Rohee said this represents an increase from 10.8 percent to 17.6 percent of the fatalities.

Noting that these high levels of death and injuries are a tragedy to the victims, their families and to society as a whole, Rohee said this is not just in terms of the human suffering, but also the enormous cost/loss it represents to a small country with relatively few human resources.

He said the fact that more than half of the victims are between the ages of 15 and 44 – the age at which they would be most able to contribute to the livelihood of their families and communities compounds this tragedy, since the loss of breadwinners has enormous implications for the security of families.

Estimates globally show that road traffic accidents can cost a nation as much as two percent of their Gross National Product (GNP). And yet, most of this loss is preventable, and can be influenced through national policy decisions, education and individual choices

Rohee also stated that as “the number of cars and vehicles increases, the roads have become more dangerous and the expected number of deaths and injuries will continue to rise relative to the number of vehicles on the road”.

TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT PLANS He disclosed that with the Guyana Police Force, through the Citizen Security Programme, a focused strategy aimed at reducing these losses to our society is being developed together with a comprehensive traffic management plan which will begin implementation within weeks.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs, with the Police Force and the Ministry of Health has set up an “Observatory” to more closely analyse the causes and the risk factors for motor vehicle injury and death,” he said.

“Not surprisingly, these have been clearly identified as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, speeding, poor safety measures, failure to buckle on crash helmets, and to use seat belts,” he added.

Noting that there is no single blueprint for road safety, Rohee said there is, however, a wide range of effective interventions that exist and experience from other countries has shown that a scientific systems approach to road safety is essential to tackling the problem.

“This approach addresses the traffic system as a whole and looks at the interactions between vehicles, road users and the road infrastructure to identify solutions,” he asserted.

Rohee also said improving road safety demands a multi-sectoral, multi-disciplined approach involving the public sector, the municipalities, the private sector, non governmental organisations and special interest groups such as minibus and hire car associations, parents, professionals, the media, all citizens and the Police.