The Ministry of Home Affairs, under the leadership of Minister Robeson Benn continues to promote road safety and encourage responsible driving while aiming to reduce traffic accidents and fatalities by 50% by 2030.
This is in keeping with the United Nations General Assembly’s global target. In Guyana, Road Safety month is observed in November. This year’s road safety month was celebrated under the theme “Safe Driving, Saves Lives!”
The Guyana Government is continuously working with stakeholders to develop a comprehensive action plan to achieve a 50% reduction in traffic accidents and fatalities by 2030. In addition, the Government has increased the National Road Safety Council’s financial resources from $3 million to more than $11 million to help reduce road accidents.
For the first time in over 16 years, Guyana has recorded a 30% decline in fatal accidents, with less than 100 road fatalities in 2021. This was a tremendous achievement.
The Minister of Home Affairs launched the Global Road Safety Week on May 13-17, 2022, under the theme “Streets for Life: For People and Planet”.
The discussions covered a wide range of issues, such as the implementation of a 30 km/h speed limit in school zones and high-traffic roads in urban areas. This comes against the backdrop of the 2020 Stockholm Declaration.
The Guyana National Road Safety Council (GNRSC), in collaboration with the Guyana Police Force and the Ministry of Home Affairs, held a road safety education and awareness walk on November 20, 2022, under the theme ‘Justice’, in observance of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims and to raise awareness of road deaths. Many stakeholders, including Mothers in Black, and members of the European Union, supported this event.
Additionally, to cope with the high influx of vehicles in Guyana and the resumption of full road usage at the end of the global pandemic lockdown, the government is working to improve the infrastructure of the roads to ensure that road users travel safely and at a speed that is consistent with what is necessary to grow the economy and the country.
The Guyana Police Force-Traffic Department is steadily being enhanced to serve the Guyanese populace at large; public-private partnerships play an integral role in developing the ranks and building trust from the population at large. The sum of $17.5 billion was recently allocated to the Guyana Police Force in the 2022 budget to serve and protect the public.
Based on current traffic statistics (January 1 to November 26, 2022), there are four main causes of road accidents in Guyana: speeding, driving under the influence (DUI), driver’s inattentiveness and pedestrians crossing the path of approaching vehicles.
For the past 10 years, from 2012 to 2021, according to the latest count, the year that experienced the least fatalities is 2021 with a total of 99. Concurrently, the year with the lowest number of traffic accidents was 2021 with a total of 87.
Road accidents and fatalities have increased by 3% from January 1 to November 26, 2022, when compared to the same period last year, while serious and minor accidents decreased by 1% and 15% respectively.
In Guyana, speeding contributes to approximately 64% of road fatalities for the 2022 period. Minister Benn urges drivers to reduce the risk of accidents, drivers must adhere to the speed limit and adjust accordingly to conditions, such as slowing down in wet weather or poor visibility. A small speed increase can make a huge difference in the severity of an accident.
The maintenance of safe distances between vehicles traversing the road is advisable. In poor conditions (such as wet weather) drive slower and leave a larger gap between you and the vehicle in front. Passengers are urged to speak up if they think the driver is speeding or the handling of the vehicle is unsafe.
Based on statistics, the highest number of road users killed are pedestrians (40%), followed by motorcyclists (21%) for the year 2022. Pedestrians are reminded that it’s vital to take an extra moment and adhere to the kerb drill and use a pedestrian crossing if there is one within 20 metres. The road should be crossed briskly and directly.
If one has to walk on the road without a footpath, it is advised that they remain on the far side of the road facing oncoming traffic. When waiting at traffic lights to cross the road, ensure all vehicles have stopped and are clear of the crossing before you step out.
Driving while intoxicated is the fourth contributing factor to fatalities on the roads. From January 1st to November 26th, five people were killed in alcohol-related crashes on Guyana’s road. The Minister is calling on drivers to refrain from drinking and driving.
From January 1st to November 26th, 2022, statistics indicate that most fatalities occurred at night between 18:00hrs to 00:00 hrs. The majority of drivers involved in fatal accidents fall between the ages of 25-42. Statistics indicate that male drivers caused 83% of all fatalities.
Of the total fatalities in 2022, data from Traffic Headquarters revealed that the month with the highest number of fatalities was September with (17%). It should be noted that the vehicle mostly involved in fatal collisions are private cars (41%), followed by motor lorries (21%) for 2022.
The number of emergency vehicles involved in accidents is another cause for great concern. On hearing the sound of sirens, operators of vehicles must give way to the emergency vehicles. Drivers are urged to stay in their lanes, signal lane changes and avoid undertaking.
The Guyana Government has embarked on an aggressive legislative agenda by introducing new bills and amendments that align with Guyana’s growing economy. Minister Benn calls on all road users to work together to ensure that our roads are safer. Each road user has a role to play in keeping our roads safe and achieving the goal of a 50% reduction by 2030.
In light of the upcoming holiday season and the increasing amount of traffic on our roads, Minister Benn would like to encourage all road users to exercise the ‘five (5) Cs’- care, caution, consideration, courtesy and common sense.