The Guyana Police Force (GPF) is hoping to end the year with less than 100 road fatalities. As it stands, there are 89 deaths recorded for the year thus far.
This has been pointed out by Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn as he officially launched National Road Safety Month on Wednesday in New Amsterdam, Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne).
This year, Road Safety Month is being observed under the theme ‘Safe Driving Saves Lives’. Last year was the first time in 16 years that Guyana’s recorded road deaths were under 100. In 2021, 80 fatal accidents resulted in 87 deaths – a 28.8 per cent reduction when compared to the 2020 figures.
Minister Benn believes that despite the current road fatality figure standing at 89, Guyana can still finish the year with less than 100 road deaths.
“We have fallen by 28.8% behind last year, so we are slightly worse off, but given the fact that we are now launching the National Road Safety Month, that the Guyana National Road Safety Council is motivated and energized, along with the Police and ourselves too on this question, we are hoping strongly that we would achieve again a year where the road deaths are below 100 for any year,” he said.
The long-term plan, he added is to have road fatalities drop to below 50 for any given year. He says the plan is to achieve this within a ten-year period. However, to achieve this, he said, several initiatives will have to be implemented. These include new legislation and enforcement methods.
“There is the question of increasing fines,” Minister Benn said while referring to the current fines for traffic offences as being paltry.
“People don’t take any care or concerns about the number of fines they have to pay, because they think it is beer money,” he added.
He said fines in relation to speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol are going to be increased. “We intend to improve the number of breathalyzers which will be employed to reduce the question of drinking under the influence of alcohol, and also we have to pay attention to (the offence of) driving while under the influence of drugs.”
The towing away of vehicles that congest and prevent the free flow of traffic, and those that are parked recklessly will soon become a normal occurrence. Minister Benn said traffic ticketing will also be focused more rigidly, while admitting that there might be billions of dollars outstanding in unpaid traffic tickets.
“This is a matter which we have to link with maybe the suspending of licences and the impounding of vehicles. It cannot be that persons are given a ticket on the road or at the Police station, and will not pay the fine and continues to drive on the road,” he said. The automated ticketing system is also expected to be introduced soon.
During the launching event, it was announced that a Police Command Centre is soon to be set up in Region Six, and persons would be monitoring cameras in the region in that centre.
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner (ag) Clifton Hicken has said that to reduce carnage on the roadways, there must be a rigorous education campaign.
“We cannot blame ourselves if we see something is going wrong and don’t report it. We would like the children, if they see something going wrong, to tell the teacher, and the teacher can tell the Police and the Police should place the perpetrator before the court. Children, you have more than that (amount) of responsibility, if you are driving with your parent, please tell them, ‘Do not breach the rules of the road’. When children speak, it resonates, and so you can start championing this cause from today,” Hicken related.
He further stated that during the month of November, all Police ranks will be zeroing in on traffic lawlessness.
“And then we are going to have a review and then we are going to put systems in place as we go forward in terms of strategic movement,” he explained.
The action plan, he said, would involve deployment and visibility, collaboration with all security services, along with the Community Policing Groups and schools.
“Enforcement is only one strategy, and if we can enforce without having conflict with members of the public, we are going to do that; but you, the public, you have to support what we are doing,” the Top Cop urged.