To put it plain and simple, Guyana's road culture is the worse that I have experienced in my travels. I used to think Jamaica and Brazil's were bad, but they pale in comparison to the mindless driving that is the ethos of Guyana's drivers. Guyana's driving culture is a culture of recklessness. Drivers seem to have absolutely no regard for their own lives, for the lives of their passengers, or for the lives of pedestrians or other motorists. They hurtle along the roadways at excessive speeds, weave in and out of traffic erratically, and dangerously overtake other vehicles in the face of perilously close oncoming traffic.
Secondly, Guyana's road culture is one of utter disregard for traffic laws. It is as if after receiving their licenses drivers suddenly lost all recollection of the rules. Stop signs are summarily ignored, with drivers who do not have the right of way rolling their vehicles into the path of right-of-way traffic. Road lanes seem superfluous, useless, as no one seems to drive in them but appears to straddle them.
And lastly, my country's road culture seems to be one of impatience. Everyone seems to be in a hurry. Road courtesy is almost nonexistent. Drivers are constantly cursing out each other, and to them pedestrians do not even exist. And all the preceding is further compounded by the paucity or absence of clearly marked traffic signs. What I have also found interesting is that everyone in Guyana talks about how horrendous the country's driving culture is, and what is laughable is that some of those same people (including some of my friends) are themselves guilty of the recklessness, disregard for traffic rules, and impatience.
Sadly, a sort of apathy regarding the problem is prevalent. While traveling from Skeldon as a passenger in a vehicle in December last year, I asked the driver if there were a reason he was driving so fast. He said something about his current speed being the speed limit. I told him I knew the difference between reasonable speed and excessive speed and asked him to reduce his speed or to stop and let me out. Thankfully, he chose the former. Maybe, as a solution is sought to deal with the problem that is Guyana's road culture, passengers need to speak up and not be afraid to hold drivers accountable. Now this reflection might be overstating the case, but there is a place for using hyperbole to make a specific point. That being said, if all drivers in Guyana drive in the manner of my dear friend Simone D., our roads would be super safe.
[photo art by Ric Couchman]