As expected there has been much hullabaloo about what in substance is very little in the ‘action’ unannounced by the Police Department to curb the much publicised carnage on our roadways.
The proposals reflect the usual superficiality attached to addressing the more fundamental problem of traffic management, in Georgetown and along our highways. For example several letters published in your columns advert to the lack of any analysis of the impact on the behaviour of motorists and particularly public transport drivers, since the recent installation of traffic lights which one suspects, in fairness, may have involved little consultation with the ineffectual Traffic Department.
The attitude reflected in the latest police pronouncements, however, is that the accidents are entirely the fault of drivers and commuters, and that the Police Department does not see its mismanagement as a major contributory factor. What emerges therefore is a series of sanctions which it is officially conceded require the cooperation of the judicial process. Surely implicit in this approach is a lack of coordination among the relevant legal agencies.
At the same time, however, there is the deafening silence about an issue that has been raised in your columns time and again. It is the matter of licensing. While it is true that drivers’ licences can be accessed by parties at excessive cost through ‘informal’ contacts, at the very least it is totally unacceptable that drivers of taxis, minibuses, trucks and other identifiable public transport vehicles should enjoy this service with immunity.
There is certainly a case for the Police Department and the Guyana Revenue Authority to collaborate in instituting mechanisms that would ensure that owners of these vehicles be made responsible for their drivers to be trained by the Traffic Department, (or some other authority) and certified to be competent, before the issue of the requisite licences.
A database of all owners and drivers should be immediately developed, and this action should be implemented with respect to existing drivers. The point was also made in a recently televised news item, that owners should be conjoined in the prosecution of their employees.
The latest pronouncements could also have emphasised more proactive measures such as a full blown public awareness campaign (in contrast to the feeble efforts currently attempted). Creatively such an exercise would involve a competent public relations firm who can formulate a sensitive programme that will resonate with all citizens – in schools, businesses, private commuters.
In this connection the Police Department displays a crass disinclination to install meaningful signs carrying messages that can impact on drivers’ behaviours. Such messages proliferate in sister Caribbean territories and, of course, elsewhere around the world. A simple example has to deal with ‘overtaking’ on the wrong side. Another is advising who has ‘the right of way’.
But while we are talking and driving helter skelter, nobody is talking about the increasing problem of parking. The police aren’t even thinking about it.
Seemingly involved in all this mayhem, and its prevention, is the attitude of insurance companies. Surely these conspicuously mute institutions must have a perspective which can contribute to tempering indifference of public transport owners, as well as the negligence of their drivers.
In the final analysis there still needs to be a meeting of minds, where all the relevant stakeholders can contribute to the development of a consensually structured strategic road transportation plan.