My attention has been directed to a report in the newspapers over the week-end that the National Road Safety Council organized the National Road Safety Month emphasizing the importance of education and vigorous campaigning toward the reduction of road accidents in the country. It reported that drunkenness and speeding are the major causes of road accidents.
Even a casual observer of drivers on our roadways will form the impression that they, the drivers, are inexperienced and unlicensed. Many new vehicles are daily put out on the roadway, (the existing vehicles are still doing their own things on the road), but we do not see any corresponding learner drivers seeking to acquaint themselves with the rules of the road or of driving in a safe manner. Some of the “new” drivers are obviously children and many of them are seen behind the wheels of the new vehicles.
The proximate causes of accidents may be drunkenness and speeding, but these are born out of a culture of ignorance and unconcern – all because they did not go through the necessary training to obtain driving licences. If they did they would have been taught that the road condition and the speed of the vehicles determine the braking distance of the vehicle. How many drivers are conscious of the fact that for every 25 miles per hour he/she travels he/she is travelling about 30 feet per second. Can one stop his/her vehicle within the distance based on the speed in case of an emergency?
The Police Traffic Department should have been doing a study/research into the accidents, classifying the drivers between certain age groups and the length of time they held/acquired valid driving licences.
I give the Hon Prime Minister 100% when he noted that the application of the law is needed to change the culture that pervades in Guyana. He added that though laws are present the application of them is what is truly necessary. The Hon Prime Minister’s concept of the application of the law is that it should be administered in a duly constituted atmosphere, and not at the roadside which now appears to be a daily public undertaking.
Those who are in breach of the licensing laws should be condignly dealt with, and if Members of the Police Force are held accountable they should not be transferred to another division or station but be summarily dismissed from the Force. It cannot be a valid excuse, as seems current, that the salary is in-adequate hence the resort to dishonesty. If the job which one is called upon to perform does not pay what he considers reasonable the officer should seek alternative employment where he can get his “just deserts”. If this does not find favour with the public then, please, let them stop talking about dishonesty!
I wish to give two instances of what are the Hon P.M.’s concerns. (1) A l9 year old child, driving a heavy duty vehicle laden with sand, was involved in an accident where four persons died. Many weeks have passed but we have not been told whether the owner of that vehicle has been prosecuted for permitting the breach of the licensing and insurance laws. (2) The headline in a newspaper article screamed at us: `Convicted drunk driver freed after paying $3m compensation’. The driver was charged with causing death by dangerous driving and driving under the influence of liquor. He pleaded not guilty but was found guilty on both charges after a trial. The learned Magistrate who heard and decided the matter, according to the news report, “suggested to the defendant that he offer some kind of compensation to the widow of the deceased in place of fine and imprisonment”.
In my books, what the magistrate did was wrong. The defendant paid over the $3M and the magistrate, “taking into account that the defendant had lost his job in Canada and the length of time the trial took cautioned him and set him free”. No conviction was recorded against the defendant – he leaves the Court a freeman and can always claim that he has no conviction recorded against his name if he applies for a job to drive a vehicle. How magnanimous and condescending the learned magistrate.
Why do I say the magistrate was wrong? The law prescribes that when a person is convicted of offences for which the defendant was charged, he is entitled to go to prison, to be fined and to suffer an order for disqualification from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a specified period of time. But that was not to be as the magistrate has ”set him free”.
The payment of the $3M is no substitute for the sanctions which the law prescribes. That compensation involves civil liability for the death of the deceased. If the widow had proceeded to the High Court for compensation she most likely would have received a much higher amount than the miniscule amount paid over by the defendant.
I am seeking to urge two things by this letter. One is for the Police to conduct investigations to ensure that all persons driving vehicles on the road are issued with driving licences issued by the proper authority: and secondly, the appropriate penal sanctioning of persons found guilty of breaching the traffic laws.
The importance of Justice and its dispensation is to prevent recurrences of what seem to have become prevalent and acceptable in our society as borne out by the statistics we have today.
(Name and address supplied)