Adequate insurance coverage is far more important than increased penalties
Peeping Tom
Kaieteur News
February 22, 2007

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I read somewhere that soon the police may have the powers to demand that certain drivers take eye-tests in order to be certified as competent to drive on our roads. The introduction of vision testing is as cock-eyed as one can get when it comes to road safety.

I have said before that we can brainstorm for one hour and come up with a million things that can be done to improve road safety in Guyana . However, since everything cannot be done at the same time, it is necessary to set priorities and to address the most important issues first.

The Peeper is by no means writing off the need for eye tests to be done where the police may feel that such a need may exist. Certainly, if the police suspect that a particular driver may not be seeing well enough to be trusted to traverse our roadways, then it is in the interest of public safety that the person be sent for an objective measure of his vision.

However, when it comes to addressing safety on our roads, this must begin with the objective of reducing the number of accidents and the number of road fatalities. And in deciding which measures will best do this, the authorities must examine the statistics and patterns of road accidents and facilities in the country.

I am not impressed when I read that there is a plan to increase traffic fines.

Do we honestly feel that this will reduce road accidents? Do we honestly feel that it will make motorists more traffic conscious? Do we really think it will reduce the sort of disrespect for the police as recently related by one letter writer to the newspapers?

That letter writer told a frightening story. She told about a traffic rank directing the flow of vehicles at a main junction in the city. One minibus however decided to disregard the instructions of the traffic cop. This resulted in bedlam at that junction.

The interesting thing though is that two other policemen on duty noticed what was happening and tried to pull over the bus which simply drove away. Now that sort of disrespect cannot be tolerated in the country if there is going to be any order on our streets.

No amount of increases in traffic fines is going to prevent lawlessness on our roads if behaviour like this is not dealt with condignly. That bus driver should be arrested, because I am sure that the ranks got the number of the vehicle, and placed before the courts and should upon conviction be jailed for a long time. No one should be allowed to disrespect the police in such a way, because once someone gets away with such behaviour, others will follow suit and the indiscipline on our roads will intensify.

One of the main contributors to the indiscipline on our roads is the chaotic manner in which the car and bus parks are organised countrywide. This not only leads to disorder but also places an onerous burden on traffic ranks. It would therefore seem to be a better approach if as an immediate priority there is a nation-wide regularisation of bus and car parks.

The second thing that should be done and which I consider far more important than simply increasing traffic fines would be to re-institute bus stops. No minibus should be allowed to take in or put off passengers other than at a bus stop. This I believe will encourage safer use of our roads and the terrible situation that exists where minibuses simply stop wherever they wish to take in and put off passengers.

Of course, a careful study of traffic statistics would point to the major causes of road accidents and where these accidents are occurring. By understanding the trends, the authorities can respond appropriately rather than engaging in guesswork.

The third recommendation constitutes perhaps the most important need today when it comes to our traffic and related legislation. It concerns the adequacy of insurance coverage.

In many instances, the insurance coverage taken out by vehicle owners is not sufficient to compensate those who suffer damages and injuries in vehicular crashes. The existing law is archaic and needs to be updated to make it compulsory for owners of motor vehicles to take out adequate insurance coverage.

The recommendations that I have made, I believe, will go a far way towards improving safety on our roadways. I am not in support on increasing traffic penalties until the traffic laws are better policed. Increasing the penalties at this stage will only increase the corruption within the traffic department and this is what we do not need at this time.

Instead of increasing fines, the Peeper would prefer if all the penalties were placed in a special fund that would be dedicated towards ensuring that the traffic lights, road signs and bus stops are maintained.