Now is the hour
Kaieteur News
April 12, 2007

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For far too long there have been complaints about the inability of the police to monitor the movement of traffic on the major roadways. The need for such monitoring is even more critical following the death of people under queer circumstances.

Last weekend three people died in a two-vehicle smash-up. The vehicles were a lorry and a minibus piloted by a seriously intoxicated driver.

What is frightening is that the loss of live could have been much more had people not used their judgement and vacated the minibus. Even the dead driver's mother who said that she got the message in church reportedly acknowledged that her son had been drinking earlier.

This minibus crossed the Berbice River and as is customary people traveling to the city would board the licenced vehicles making the journey. However, the driver's intoxication had to be such that the people were able to recognise that they would not be safe in the hands of such a person. They vacated the bus but the conductor had no such choice although we believe that a person always has a choice.

The conductor must have known that the driver was heavily intoxicated but he opted to go along, perhaps safe in the knowledge that he would be paid. Money means so much to some people that they would risk their lives.

Because of the fickle nature of people, the police must help maintain pressure on the society. Left to their own devices the people would invariably resort to anarchy. They would seek to perpetuate the basic instinct that prevails in the jungle—the law of the fittest.

In most countries the police patrol the highways. Indeed this is a costly exercise but the cost of human life is worth every litre of gasoline spent patrolling the streets. When all is said and done the human element is crucial to every society.

There may be those who will say that grown people should know the difference between right and wrong; that they should be the ones to set the example. However, in this society there are people who must be supervised continuously. Surely the drunk driver who killed himself and two others falls into this category.

Highway patrols are the norm. These patrols are supported by hefty penalties that include jail. Drunk driving is seen as a serious offence and repeat offenders not only run the risk of jail time, but they are also banned from driving for life. Breaking the ban leads to even more jail time.

It was refreshing when a magistrate jailed some people for as much as a year on conviction of stealing electricity. This was never done so people continued to perform this act. Should other magistrates impose similarly harsh penalty we could see an end to electricity theft in this country.

It is the same with some of those traffic offences. The penalties are insignificant so people continue to break the law safe in the knowledge that they could accept whatever the courts offer. For vehicular homicide is not a charge in this country, so there is little chance of the perpetrator ever being made to pay.

And as if to compound the issue, the courts are dilatory. It could be years before a matter is heard and given the rate of migration the likelihood of a conviction becomes remote because more likely than not, the witnesses leave the jurisdiction by the time the matter is called five or more years down the line.

The police may argue that they do not have the resources, but not so long ago, and with less vehicles in the fleet, the police easily guided vehicles traveling from Rosignol. The police would order all vehicles to line up behind a patrol vehicle and when a large enough number is in the line then that motorcade would proceed across West Berbice. The unfortunate thing is that there is not another patrol waiting at the edge of the region to continue the procession.

Children and adults alike cross the streets but motorists ignore them, often to the detriment of the pedestrian. This too must change. And the police are the people to effect this change.

Mothers in Black have once more taken to the streets. Had it not been for their determination we would not have had seatbelt regulation. But even then we had a chance to toughen our laws; we refused. Whether we can maintain this lax legislation is not a matter for debate.