Significant increase in fatal accidents prompts review of road-safety measures

-Home Affairs Ministry urges use of helmets, seatbelts

NOTING the steep rise in the number of road fatalities, the Ministry of Home Affairs said on Tuesday that a further review of more measures to promote road safety are currently being undertaken.

In a detailed press release, the ministry said that for the period January 1 to February 18, 2023, 16 persons were killed when compared with eight persons for 2022.

“The 2023 results show a 100 per cent increase when compared with 2022. What is very notable is that pedestrian fatalities increased by 25 per cent when compared to the same period last year. Whereas approximately 44 per cent of motorcyclists were killed during the same period compared to last year,” the release said.

Comparative data has shown that as of February 18, 2023, 16 persons have been killed on the roads as a result of 14 accidents, when compared with the same period for 2022 when eight persons died from seven accidents.

“What is significantly alarming, is that in 2022, five of the eight persons killed during that period were the most vulnerable classes of road users (two pedal cyclists, one motorcyclist and two pedestrians), while as at February 18, 2023, of the 13 killed, the vulnerable classes accounted for 16 (two pedal cyclists, seven motorcyclists, four pedestrians),” the release added.

With regard to serious accidents, it was noted that according to the data provided as of February 18, 2023, 41 serious accidents were recorded, while 39 serious accidents occurred during the same period in 2022, indicating a five per cent increase when compared to 2022.

Data also clearly indicates that fatal accidents occur primarily on Sundays and Fridays between the hours of 18:00 and 05:59, with male drivers accounting for 81 per cent of all deaths.

“With the advent of the new government, we were able to reduce road deaths by 30 percent in 2021 and 2022, with less than 100 persons killed for the first time in 16 years. This achievement of the previous two years will be extremely difficult to maintain at the present rate of road fatalities,” the ministry noted.

The ministry which is led by Minister Robeson Benn said it has noted with grave concern the growing number of road fatalities which have occurred for the year thus far.

It said that this increase in road fatalities appears to be a daily occurrence, and the indications are that reckless driver behaviour, attributable to excessive speeds, driving under the influence of alcohol, driving without due care and attention (or inattentiveness), tailgating, and driving while tired is the common cause.

While noting that it sympathises with the families, friends, and communities impacted by the loss and injuries, the ministry said the fact that effective preventative strategies do exist makes this situation all the more unacceptable.

“The five Cs’- Care, Caution, Courtesy, Consideration and Commonsense — taught at our driving schools seemed to have been forgotten or ignored altogether by many motorists.

Motorists are failing to observe the fundamental principle of safe driving, which is to maintain a safe braking distance and not exceed the required speed limits,” it added.

The ministry noted that this situation necessitates stringent law enforcement as it is simply not acceptable that Guyanese continue to perish and be injured on the roadways.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs is continuously collaborating with stakeholders to develop a comprehensive action plan to reduce road accidents and fatalities by 50 per cent by 2030. This coupled with all road users taking personal responsibility by adhering to road safety measures and guidelines.

Furthermore, on November 7, 2022, the National Assembly passed the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2022 to promote and enforce safe driving, while imposing much higher penalties for serious infractions.

The National Road Safety Council’s financial resources have been boosted from $3 million to more than $11 million, which will aid in the sensitization and reduction of road accidents,” the release said.

It was explained that through advocacy, training, and education, the ministry is committed to providing evidence-based road-safety knowledge and awareness programmes to create a culture of safety among all road users and address high-risk behaviours among young adults and the broader road-using community.

As part of corporate social responsibility, the ministry is encouraging private sector participation in augmenting national efforts to promote road-safety awareness.

The Traffic Department has been intensifying efforts to prevent speeding on the roads, but despite these efforts, deaths on our roadways continue to be problematic.

“The PPP/C government has been spending considerable sums of money to upgrade roads and highways, as well as installing lights and CCTV cameras at strategic points, which improve infrastructure and safety for all road users.

The ministry wishes to remind the public that there is no justification for not wearing a helmet or a seatbelt. An accident may occur at any time, but our safety and that of others should be prioritised over convenience, as the case may be. Not only is it the law to wear a helmet or a seatbelt at all times, but it only takes a few seconds to do so. We all have a role to play in the prevention of road accidents. It cannot be the responsibility of the Police Traffic Department alone.”

Despite the encouragement given to motorists with the free distribution of safety helmets, a large number of motorists continue to ride without helmets, and worse yet, persons are transporting women and children on motorcycles at high speeds without helmets.

This practice, the ministry emphasized, must be stopped.

Additionally, the ministry indicated its intention to pursue discussions with the relevant stakeholders regarding requirements for the importation, registration and licensing of electric bikes.

“A further review of more measures to promote road safety is currently being undertaken through a collaborative effort by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Guyana Police Force, the Traffic Department, the Guyana Revenue Authority, and the Ministry of Education.

Again, the Ministry of Home Affairs is appealing to all Guyanese to exercise care and caution when using the road,” the release added.

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