Granger roasts gov’t over road deaths

Presidential hopeful David Granger yesterday criticised the PPP/C for incompetence in ensuring road safety, saying that recent fatalities were a “shocking reminder” of how dangerous the roadways have become.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs can prevent most road accidents if it implemented correct policing, rigorous law-enforcement, efficient road engineering and proper licensing of vehicle drivers. These have not happened under the PPP/C,” Granger, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) candidate, said on a broadcast of ‘Facing the Nation’ on CNS TV 6 yesterday.
He urged that Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee display a greater sense of responsibility with respect to road safety. “After nearly five years at the Ministry, he must be aware that the problem is that too many persons drive too fast and too few traffic policemen are deployed on the rural roadways where and when speeding is rampant, both by day and night,” he said, while adding that the PPP/C administration has a lot more work to do to make this country’s roads safe.

His statement came as three road fatalities were reported in less than a day (see tories on pages 2 and 12). Granger also noted other recent road deaths, including those of Jaswattie Ramnauth, 9, at the Cotton Tree Public Road, Fabian and Trevor Abrams and Deon Baptiste, at Matthews Ridge, and Uzair Khan, near Surama, in the Rupununi.

Granger said that Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy identified road accidents as the seventh leading cause of deaths in Guyana and had even pointed out that the real tragedy was that not a single road death should occur since it is something that is preventable.

However, Granger added that the rate of road fatalities has been “frighteningly high” since the PPP/C entered office and he quoted Chief Traffic Officer Superintendent John Daniels, at a recent meeting held to observe the Global Decade of Action for Road Safety Month 2010-2020, as saying that 1,377 persons were killed in fatal accidents, including 199 children, 568 pedestrians and 160 drivers during the last decennium. He also quoted former Chief Traffic Officer, Superintendent Roland Alleyne, who spoke at the re-launching of the National Road Safety Council, as saying that there had been 1,883 deaths as a result of accidents on the roadways in the period 1995-2006—an average rate of more than three per week for over eleven years.

“Had such a large number of persons… been slaughtered by bandits in criminal massacres, there would most likely have been an outcry and demands for inquiries from civil society,” Granger said.

He also lamented that pedestrians constitute the leading category of all persons killed in road accidents. “They are this country’s most vulnerable road users and run the greatest risk of injury or death. Every month, three or four pedestrians, most of them either very young or very old, are killed on the roads,” he said. He pointed out that sidewalks or pavements are rare, many streets do not have marked crossings and there is no indication of where or how pedestrians are expected to cross to the other side. Additionally, he said pedestrian crossings, where they exist, are frequently faded and unmarked. He also noted that grass verges alongside roadways tend to be uneven, stony, muddy or encumbered by builders’ waste and vendors’ stalls. As a result, he said pedestrians are often forced to walk onto the motorways, where they must compete with moving vehicles for space amidst domestic animals, parked or broken-down vehicles and heaps of sand or mud.

“Is it any wonder that, US Department of State warned its citizens visiting this country that driving is hazardous because of very poor road surfaces?” he questioned, while citing the problems of farm animals sleeping or wandering on the roads, and reckless driving, including speeding, tailgating, and cell-phone use. He noted too that the traffic accident fatality rate is 70 per cent higher than in the United States.

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