Drivers should stop for pedestrians on zebra crossings

Dear Editor,
My observation and experience in the use of the roads in and out of Georgetown, leaves me to wonder what is next, what will happen in the next decade?  Will there be improvement in the situation?  Greater safety for road users?  Or will it be more hassle for pedestrians, and more lawlessness on the part of motorists and other road users on the whole?  For what happens on the roads of Guyana is not the fault of motorists alone, although I will keep this discussion in this sphere.

A pedestrian wanting to cross on a pedestrian crossing, one who has signalled his intention by being in the right spot on the crossing has to wait for minutes on end because speeding motorists don’t consider him a valid road user. This has been my experience and observation time and time again. The hurtful thing is that it does not matter if it is a group wanting to cross, or whether there are children wanting to cross the road. These speeding motorists, most of them, just don’t care. There is blatant disregard for those pedestrians, a downright lack of consideration for them.  What can propel people to act in such a manner?

Habit will largely determine whether one becomes a safe, competent driver or a dangerous driver. The good driver obeys every traffic law and rule of the road. This is not the case for the majority of motorists on our roads.  They always seem to be late, rushing to get ahead of others, and some, especially minibus drivers, follow the green light, make a left turn with the green signal only to make a U-turn and left turn again to cross the junction before others at Homestretch and Vlissengen Roads or Croal Street and Camp. This is my experience time and time again in and out of such buses.  What should we do with these aggressive and reckless road users?  They imperil the lives of other road users not to count their own. My understanding is that a U-turn is prohibited and is a breach of the traffic regulations.

I have alluded to the five Cs of driving before in some of my letters. Safety on the roads includes every aspect of the game.  It is not enough to fasten one’s seat belt, be alert while driving, and go out there and do foolish acts.  Granting the right of way to another driver may prevent a collision. A motor vehicle in motion can be likened to a dangerous weapon and therefore should be in the hands of the right person.  Greater screening should be taken into consideration when granting driver’s licences to drivers. Perhaps, a psychological profile should be considered.  Those who don’t show Care, Caution, Courtesy, Consideration and Commonsense should not be driving on our roads.

Moderate speed is best at all times. The motorist must understand that an automobile is a large, powerful machine. At a speed of fifty miles an hour or more it can do considerable damage if one gets the feeling of false security and makes a mistake. It is therefore imperative that every driver remain alert. The motorist who is not alert cannot cope with a sudden emergency as quickly as is necessary. His reaction time is longer to apply the brakes or do whatever it takes to avoid a collision.  Norton Street should be a focal point for traffic police to monitor speeding.

I want to believe that one reason why motorists do not stop for pedestrians as they should, is that they are going too fast. However, the bottom line is that most of them are in a hurry, show little consideration for other road users, lack courtesy and don’t have regard for the law since it is not enforced, while some do not respect the rights of others.

I have seen pedestrians run for their lives on pedestrian crossings.  I have seen pedestrians in the middle of the crossing and motorists passing at top speed in front and behind the pedestrians as if the road is clear. Some roads, such as Mandela Avenue, are wide and the vehicles stream past so fast that they catch up with the pedestrian on the crossing oblivious to the fact that someone is crossing the road.  In Suriname the ‘sleeping policemen’, those humps, are there to slow up vehicles where it is necessary that they travel at a slow rate. We have some here too but I don’t see them at pedestrian crossings, and when they are constructed with cement after the road is built, they soon disappear.

Everyone has the responsibility to use the roads wisely. It takes two to prevent motor vehicle accidents to pedestrians—the driver and the person on foot.  Even the best driver cannot avoid an accident when a pedestrian acts foolishly.  The common situations in which pedestrians are struck by vehicles are when they are walking against traffic signals, crossing streets without looking to see if a vehicle is coming, or darting out from behind parked cars. But no pedestrian should be intimidated when making a valid crossing on the zebra crossing.

The final responsibility for preventing accidents on a pedestrian crossing rests with the driver. The best way to be sure that every motorist is capable of operating an automobile is to offer formal training in the techniques and mechanics of driving and knowledge of the traffic rules.  Again, skill, common sense, alertness, and courtesy are essential to safety.  Drivers should slow down and stop for pedestrians where there is a crossing, even if they don’t allow them to cross at any other point on the road.

Yours faithfully,
Hilmon Henry

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