by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 24 June 2007)
On Thursday this newspaper published an article about how the Police Traffic Department will be clamping down on motorists who use their horns indiscriminately. On Friday, Stabroek News published an editorial about steps being taken to improve road safety and to address excessive speeding.
This is all very good news and comes to us just as the Pope has decided to do what he can to improve the global driving experience. The Vatican has released a new set of Ten Commandments specifically designed for drivers. God help us all.
I do not begrudge the Catholic Church its place of leadership in the world. Nor do I think it is necessarily a bad thing for the Vatican to encourage good driving habits. It’s just that I hate to see yet one more set of dogma that must be followed if I do not wish to see the searing hot flames of hell.
Let’s face it - if I ever stood a chance of seeing paradise, I lost it the day I decided to stop being a submissive woman. Almost all the world religions nowadays require a woman to be docile and quick to obey her godlike man. Since I have evolved beyond the need for such teachings, I suppose I can give up on seeing those pearly gates.
But now there are yet more rules and regulations to catch me tripping up – and in the one place I thought I was safe – my car. Is there no place left untouched by religion? I suppose it is a good thing that I gave up trying or I just might be a tad worried about my immortal soul.
Here is a list of the Drivers Ten Commandments as listed by CNN World (and my commentary, of course):
1. You shall not kill. (I thought this one was already taken)
2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm. (Does that mean I must detach the new fire-shooting gun from the roof of my car?)
3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events. (So I shouldn’t get spitting angry when I run out of gas or when I get a damn flat tire?)
4. Be charitable and help your neighbour in need, especially victims of accidents. (I cannot help but wonder how many times the Pope-mobile has stopped to help roadside victims.)
5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin. (Not even on days when I like to dress in all black and wear my patent leather power boots? Man, they just want to take away all of my fun.)
6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so. (The “not so young”? Oh, they mean Freddie.)
7. Support the families of accident victims. (So they don’t hunt down that drunk driver with their own expressions of power and domination.)
8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness. (I love the wording of this one – “at the appropriate time.” If this is done too early, there might be even more forgiveness required and more confessions to be made.)
9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party. (Like the pedestrians!)
10. Feel responsible toward others. (Okay, so I am my brother’s keeper then. I wish they would make up their minds.)
In all seriousness, I do think the last time I prayed was on my way from the Cheddi Jagan Int. airport to Georgetown during a visit to Guyana. If I ever wanted a god to exist – it was then. It was even scarier than driving in circles up a mountain in the dark in Guatemala in a tiny car piled high with suitcases on top – in the rain with no windshield wipers or guardrails on the side of the road.
Here is a quote from the aforementioned Stabroek News editorial, “Speaking at the relaunching of the National Road Safety Council in May last year, Guyana Police Force Chief Traffic Officer Mr Roland Alleyne disclosed that there had been 1,883 deaths as a result of accidents on the roadways in the period 1995-2006, an average rate of more than three per week for over eleven years!”
Note the use of an exclamation point at the end of that quote. Journalists use this punctuation mark very, very seldom. It is reserved for only the rare occasions when the writer is attempting to make an extremely important point. Perhaps the reader would like to take the time to read that quote again.
I am not sure if the Driver’s Ten Commandments will help to reduce the number of deaths on the roadways of Guyana. The Vatican’s document also suggested citing the Rosary while driving since its rhythm will not distract the driver from the road. If it helps some people, I say go for it.
For this sinner, I have been driving for well over two decades without one accident. I am always courteous to other drivers and I am far too careful to allow car to run out of gas. I think I am doing just fine without the Vatican’s help. However, I do wonder if they could offer us some advice on how to overcome the sexism still so prevalent in the world?