A National Road Safety Strategy for 2013-2020 has been launched by the Guyana National Road Safety Council (GNRSC), which would seek to strengthen the management and enforcement of safety systems at national and regional levels in Guyana.
The document was presented to stakeholders involved in its compilation and members of the GNRSC, at the Regency Suites Hotel on Wednesday. The plan, presented by GNRSC Chairman Nigel Erskine, is a key element in Guyana meeting its target for the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety, during which countries should accomplish a 50 per cent reduction of traffic fatalities.
As such, by 2020, Guyana is expected to have a record of 58 deaths due to accidents, approximately half of the 115 road fatalities in 2010. Erskine said the UN decade of action provides countries with guidelines that experts believe will save five million lives and prevent 50 million injuries. This can be achieved through five pillars inclusive of road safety management; safer roads, road users and vehicles; and a post-crash response.
He noted that the strategy has outlined priority actions in keeping with these pillars to address situations in Guyana’s context such as the implementation of the UN road safety conventions and agreements, the establishment of an inter-sectoral system to monitor evaluations of road safety indicators, and increased public awareness on risk factors and compliance with laws.
Erskine said the strategy also highlights a number of problems hindering road safety in Guyana. He cited a “lawless public transportation system, the nature of subculture of minibus operations in Guyana, road users under the influence of alcohol and other substances [and] the absence of child restraint legislation”.
Strike balance between development and road safety
Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee emphasised that road safety has to be tackled within the context of a country’s society, noting that authorities, when making plans, must take into consideration a growing economy before they can apply guidelines.
He said the opening up of new and emerging industries automatically results in an increase of traffic and pedestrian movement.
“In our country, new industries are opening up on a daily basis and sometimes when we speak about the opening up of industries, we tend to focus only on the coastland, but in the interior, many new industries are opening up. I was happy to see the road safety council has spread to form groups”, he said.
Rohee said various heads and government need to work together to strike a balance between development of the economy and road safety, and to increase road safety education in schools and at other levels.
The national road safety strategy was developed through a multi-sectoral approach, which saw the involvement of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) among other entities.
IDB Transport Senior Specialist Christopher Persaud said: “Guyana’s growing vehicle fleet translates to more mileage and higher risk of crashes. In order for Guyana to effectively monitor its road safety initiatives, emphasis needs to be placed on the collection, storage and analysis of data”.
He noted that the IDB has a 2010-2015 action plan for Latin America and the Caribbean that seeks to “equip regional countries with the tools they require to reduce road and traffic injuries and fatalities [and] to strengthen the organisations that are responsible for developing and implementing road safety measures”.
CDB Economic Infrastructure Division Operations Officer William Ashby said: “The CDB has been and remains a long-term partner in providing support to the government and people of Guyana as they strive to achieve their development objectives. Our work in the road transport sector in Guyana is governed by CDB’s strategic objectives of promoting broad-based economic growth and inclusive social development and promoting good governance within its Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs).”
Global road status report
The event also saw the handing over of the Global Road Status Report on Road Safety being handed over to Minister Rohee by PAHO acting representative, engineer Adrianus Vlugman.
He noted that some 1.2 million people lose their life each year in road fatalities, with low/middle income countries accounting for some 90 per cent of such deaths.
Vlugman said the report represents information from approximately 82 countries. Guyana recorded between 150 and 190 road traffic deaths annually from 1996 to 2006, with a peak of 207 deaths in 2007. However, the death toll fell to 113-and 117 fatalities yearly between 2008 and 2011. This year 46 fatalities from 43 accidents had been recorded at the end of May.
According to the Guyana Police Force, speeding continues to be a major contributing factor to fatal accidents, causing 35 of the 43 fatal accidents. Traffic authorities have made a total of 35,843 cases against errant motorists; 9196 of which were for speeding. (firstname.lastname@example.org)