Reading about road fatalities and seeing someone actually lying dead in the street are two different experiences. Returning from a Boxing Day lime on the East Bank with friends, a long traffic jam turned out to be the result of a fatal accident with a body gruesomely lying dead on the road. As if that was not enough to leave a bad feeling in your stomach we were shocked when again encountering another traffic jam minutes later, just before the Cultural Centre which again turned out to be another fatality, again with another victim lying dead on the road.
I am not really surprised that we have so many fatalities given the way most people drive, ride and otherwise use our inadequate roads. As one returning Guyanese visitor this season remarked jokingly, we share our narrow streets of the city and its suburbs with stray animals, animal driven carts, music carts, street vendors, bicycles, motor bicycles, pedestrians, crazy vagrants, and regular beggars. All this congestion in narrow streets marked out with equally narrow lanes and numerous potholes along with parking on both sides renders those lanes useless.
We have all seen the senseless action of the police who stop traffic in the middle of all this congestion for some violation or the other, creating a senseless traffic build-up. I have even seen a police motorcyclist ride onto the parapet to avoid a speed bump.
Our city is not the only old one with narrow streets, but it must be among the worst for lack of regulation, lawlessness and plain stupidity. How many times a day you see drivers trying to make a manoeuvre on these tiny streets with other discourteous drivers driving all around them rather than stopping and letting that driver complete the manoeuvre. We seem to enjoy chaos and total confusion by poking, shoving and honking our way through traffic. A Guyanese driver would not wait if there is an obstruction in his lane, but would go around it to force the oncoming traffic to stop while he pokes through, and if others are behind they too will keep coming. To give a driver a break to turn or cross in front of you is not the done thing, as this gives the traffic behind a signal to follow without any consideration until you push forward and force an end to the flow. Taxies and minibuses are among the chief offenders, since they will take you from any side of the road and brace and force you off the road any which way they can. They drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid a traffic jam, then cut forcefully into the line of traffic as though it’s normal, then get annoyed if you do not let them in after their excursion of stupidity. This practice is common and very notable on Sandy Babb Street approaching Vlissengen Road and on the Railway embankment when there are traffic jams.
The Traffic police appear toothless and could often be seen looking on at these manoeuvres or at intersections as the crazy poke and shove with the horn blowing fiascos taking place in plain sight. Our drivers just do not understand road courtesy, or they have complete contempt for the law of the road.
On the dreaded road safety topic of minibuses, it appears as though some get special treatment from the traffic police. It beats me why the Ministry of Transport would not see it fit to have stronger legislation for minibuses, for example, a standard colour with only the route number displayed.