Guyana: Renewed efforts to make our roads much safer – by Francis Quamina Farrier     

– by Francis Quamina Farrier    

Last year, 2019, there were 128 Traffic Fatalities in Guyana, and as I write this article six persons have already lost their lives this year, 2020, due to traffic crashes. However, with the stepping up of a wide range of concerned Guyanese, there is a likelihood that there will be a decrease in the number of victims in 2020.

Over more recent years, in the face a unbelievable madness displayed by a high percentage of drivers here in Guyana, more individuals and groups have stepped forward to arrest the situation in which hundreds of fatalities and thousands injured since the turn of the century. Most Guyanese drivers of today seem to be always in a hurry. Always very impatient. Most of them seem unable to keep their hands off the vehicle horns.   

Slamming on it many times for no obvious reason. That impatience while driving results in many of the accidents and crashes on a regular basis. As is well established, mini bus drivers are the worst offenders. Accompanying this article is a photograph I took of a damaged minibus horn which is due to it being used more like a punching bag than a vehicle horn.

Minibus operations are vital for the day-to-day functioning of our country. As such, it is of great importance that they should be operated in as safe, professional and comfortable a way as possible, not only for their passengers, but also for other road-users. Sadly, that is not the case, and mini bus operations have reached a point where they are considered a total and an absolute menace on our roads. They are the cause of much of the mayhem and death on our roads, and responsible for a very high percentage of traffic crashes, including fatalities. Last December, President David Granger spoke up about the horrible on-going traffic situation, and in a way, expressing his concern and expectation that something be done to put an end to the madness.

Enter a new year and a new decade; 2020. Sadly, a life was lost due to a traffic crash on the very first day of 2020.  Donald Mootoo, a 59 year old painter, was killed on the Montrose Public road, East Coast Demerara on New Year’s Day, when he was hit by a speeding vehicle. Some days later, Rondell Jacobs of Linden died when a tractor on which he was riding, ran over him when he fell off the vehicle. The incident occurred at 72 Miles Potaro on Sunday January 5. A week later, Eighty one year old pensioner Parvidi Ramcharran was knocked over and killed by a speeding vehicle while she was walking across the Corentyne Coast Public Road on the Pedestrian Crossing from the Nigg Post Office where she had just collected her first pension for 2020.

Another pensioner, Francis Lopes, was killed on the Enmore Public Road when he was run over by a truck on Friday January 10. He died on the spot. What was horrible about that tragedy, is that particles of the victim’s body were allegedly left openly on the roadway as other vehicles drove over them.

Two days later, early Sunday morning, January 12, twenty year old Navindra Balader lost his life when he lost control of the motor cycle he was allegedly riding at a fast speed on the Essequibo Coast Public Road, and crashed. He died sometime later at the Suddie Public Hospital. It must be noted that there have been many fatal motor cycle crashes on the Essequibo Coast Public Road involving youngsters, during the past ten years. On January 21, sanitation worker, 54 year old Chatterpaul Kabir lost his life in a way that could only be described as a freak accident. Standing behind the garbage truck as a member of the crew, he was run over when the driver reversed the vehicle.

So in January 2020 so far, there has been a total of six Road Fatalities in Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice. The hope is that the number will remain at six.

Here is some more good news in relation to Road Safety in 2020. Just two weeks ago, the Police Traffic Division resuscitated the Traffic Advisory Committee which includes the Guyana National Road Safety Council and the Guyana United Minibus Union. All stakeholders have their work cut out for them. However, I have to say that there is a group of stakeholders who have been keeping themselves very quiet and low-keyed as they collect impressive financial returns daily.

They are the mini bus owners. In one of my articles last year, I leveled a charge at them, referring to them as being greedy and part of the problem of the Mini Bus madness. Many of the mini bus owners are powerful citizens, and I implore them to use their power and influence to demand better operations by those who they employ to operate their property. They should draft contracts demanding certain professional execution of their service. As seen in some other countries, photographs of drivers and conductors are posted inside the bus along with a Police Hotline number for passengers to make phone calls should they need to make complaints.

On February 28, 2019, an enforcement exercise was carried out by Ranks from the Brickdam Police Station on mini bus operators in the Stabroek Market area. Retrieved from the persons of drivers and conductors were many deadly weapons such as knives and ice picks. Mini Bus owners must realize the deep pain to the relatives and friends of those who have lost their lives in mini bus crashes. They must also consider the physical and mental pain suffered by many commuters due to the loud noise in their buses.

Commuters who are workers and students should have some piece and quiet as they start another day of work and studies. People going to the hospital or going for other medical attention do not need banging noises in such a limited space which they pay to occupy. The mini bus owners have the power and responsibility to keep boom boxes out of their buses, which in any case is illegal.

So I say yet again, that the mini bus owners can help to solve the on-going madness on our roads. They have the power and responsibility to make a positive difference and they need to use that power to ensure that commuters and other Road Users enjoy The Good Life promised by President David Granger to the people of Guyana, including mini bus commuters.

It took a little while, but more and more commuters are indeed fighting back, using innovate efforts against the terrorist type service, as retired Police Commissioner David Ramnarine had advised. As part of the rejection of the ‘terrorist’ type of service given, some passengers utilize their cell phones. They take photographs of offending mini buses and post them on Facebook. One example was a recent incident when the driver of a Route 42 mini bus, BRR 8747, allegedly ordered the passengers out of the bus after a passenger complained about loud music, and other passengers supported her. They were ordered off the bus even though it was night time. More passengers are speaking up as well against any conductor who attempts to overload a bus. What is not happening so far, is young girls objecting to being pulled and tugged by conductors who feel that a girl’s body is fair game. Girls with the mentality of being less than a young citizen of Guyana who should be treated with respect and dignity.

In a Press Release by the Police Public Relations Division of March 1, 2019, information was given regards a Campaign against the mini bus operations. The release ended by stating that, “The drivers were all grateful to the police for their leniency.” That being the case, it did not take long for those mini bus operators to display blatant ingratitude to the Police and return to the very same illegal and hooligan type behaviour which they had promised the Police to desist from. Moving forward in 2020, it is the view of a high percentage of commuters that the Police need to show much more firmness, and not compassion, since that compassion has been returned with ingratitude by the mini bus operators and owners, and the travelling public continues to suffer even though they pay for the service.

In another Press Release from the Police Public Relations Division on April 4, 2019, it was stated that “The Police Traffic Division has been engaged in a massive education and sensitization campaign which has placed great emphasis on youths and students as well as mini bus owners and operators.” The Police have been very patient with the deviant mini bus operators and owners. The madness still being displayed on our roads by mini bus operators, some even driving on pavements in order to over-take other vehicles, is giving Guyana a bad name and taking names off the voters’ list by way of untimely deaths. As such, leaders of Political Parties are also expected to play their role in helping to cure the on-going madness on our roads. As stated over the years, “Road Safety is Everybody’s business.”

In Georgetown, a one-horse power vehicle dares a multi-horsepower minibus to come with any hooligan type challenge. (Photo by F.Q. Farrier)

In more recent years, infrastructure are being constructed for the safety of pedestrians. (Photo by Francis Q. Farrier)

The sad condition of a Guyana mini bus horn due to incessant slamming on the instrument by the driver. (Photo by F.Q. Farrier)

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  • kamtanblog  On January 24, 2020 at 5:40 am

    Agree ! It is a very serious “dilemma”
    DVLA licensing authority in UK data base
    is easily accessible on line FMI …
    Registration Number of vehicle gives
    all relevant info on vehicle.

    The poo poo have instant access to this
    info with cameras providing instant
    number plate recognition.
    Any breaches are automatically
    addressed with fines/arrests.

    It’s not rocket science !
    Come on Guyana you can do better !

    Fine/imprison a few for starters.
    Seats belts etc are all punishable offences.
    Hit drivers where it hurts most !
    No not there…their pockets ! Ha ha

    Ps interesting read padre Francis

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