Road accidents cost $1B annually
-Ramsammy urges better road usage

Kaieteur News
April 30, 2007

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The fact that Guyana is ranked fifth among countries in the Americas in terms of rate of traffic accident-related deaths is something Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy says ought to jar Guyanese from complacency.

“We cannot stand by and allow the carnage to continue on our roads. With more and better roads, poor driving habits and poor use of roads in general, the rate of deaths and the carnage would continue to increase unless we do something now, take action now,” the Minister said during the recent observance of Road Safety Week.

He noted that everyday, local hospitals are challenged by the fact that victims of road accidents must be treated, sometimes with surgery.

Last year, 940 persons had to receive surgery at the Georgetown and New Amsterdam Hospitals .

The number of deaths because of road accidents numbered 160. The death rate from road accidents in Guyana for 2006 was 21.8 per 100,000 population.

Minister Ramsammy also noted that accidents don't only result in death; a number of persons are injured, some disabled for life.

He estimated that the cost of taking care of accident victims amounts to more than $100M per year at the GPHC alone.

When lost of productivity, etc. are taken into consideration, accidents cost Guyana more than $500M per year.

This is an enormous amount of resources for Guyana to have to expend for a problem that is absolutely preventable, the Minister noted.

“When replacements of parts and vehicle and cost for life-long disability are computed, road traffic accidents easily cost Guyana about $1B per year or more than 1.5 per cent of our national budget.”

“Accidents are caused by users using roads improperly; by inexperienced and unqualified drivers; by drivers breaching the rules and common sense, including total disregard for speed limits; by pedestrians ignoring safety rules in their own use of the road; by a lack of education among all categories of users; by inadequate rules and regulations or under-implementation of the rules and regulations; by too many persons driving under the influence of alcohol; by persons ignoring the seatbelt rules; by persons insisting on using cell phones while driving; by a general lack or knowledge in how to use roadways safety; and by poorly designed roads or roads not in proper conditions or, in general, poor road environments,” the Minster said.

If Guyana is to reverse the tend of increasing rates of deaths to traffic accident, it will have to be through the concerted efforts of the Ministries of Health, Education, Home Affairs, Labour and Social Security and Youths, Culture and Sports, he said.

However, for the fight to be truly successful, it will have to include the efforts of individuals, communities, NGOs and industries.