There is a growing phenomenon in Guyana, particularly in Georgetown and its environs, called ‘Drag Racing.” This consists of drivers of motor cars lining up in streets side to side and racing their vehicles a high speed up to a point further up the street. I do not know the extent of it and, apart from a comment or two in the press identifying it as the reason behind a particular accident, there is little talk about it. Perhaps no one knows because there have been no journalistic investigations. But if you talk to young people who are familiar with urban night life, you will learn that it is a popular ‘pastime.’ For example, I have learnt that near to a place on the lower East Bank where alcohol is available, at a late hour in the night bordering on the early morning hours, cars gather together to ‘drag race.’ This apparently is widely known. And it has fuelled speculation that some recent road accidents resulting in deaths in the East Bank area were caused by ‘drag racing.’ Other deaths in the city from accidents occurring in the early morning hours were also alleged to have been caused by this dangerous phenomenon. The reports about ‘drag racing’ are now too persistent to be ignored.
Those of us who have long passed the age of youth are now familiar with the adventurous spirit of young people and the thrills which are attained by dangerous pastimes. We remember our own youth and though we were of a different generation, we are no strangers to the activities of different types that we engaged in which posed great dangers to life and limb, dangers which we either did not recognize at the time or which we ignored. It follows that many good, productive and ambitious young people, some with families, are not always aware of the risks involved in activities which they undertake to provide thrills and adventure. And they resist expressions of caution, not because they are bad but because it is in the nature of youth to feel invulnerable. Some city bound youth, searching for an easy opportunity for thrills, and having the resources of motor vehicles which were not available to earlier generations, have now discovered ‘drag racing.’
More disturbing are suggestions that large bets are placed on favourite drivers or vehicles and huge sums change hands. If these reports are true drag racing has gone beyond being dangerous. It is not a case any longer of idle youth with resources looking for thrills in an unacceptable manner. It is a matter of reckless, stupid and criminal conduct which deliberately poses a danger to members of the public and which should be viewed by the authorities as unacceptable.
There is no offence of ‘drag racing.’ Maybe there should be, with high enough penalties to deter participants. But speeding on the road in the course of racing will definitely constitute the offence of dangerous driving which carries heavy penalties including imprisonment. Unfortunately the police are hardly about at the hour of night when drag racing takes place. The drivers feel therefore that they can perform with impunity.
I have no idea of the attitude of the police in connection with ‘drag racing.’ I know that the official attitude would be that it is illegal and that any perpetrators who are caught would be prosecuted. But I am talking about the unofficial attitude which often determines approaches. If the police were to feel that on the scale of offenses that they have to confront daily with limited resources, ‘drag racing’ is at the bottom end of importance, then they would pay only nominal attention to it. Whether or not his is so, it would appear that the time has arrived for the police to begin to investigate to determine its extent of this activity and, if they find that it is prevalent and poses a serious danger to the public, to take steps to stop it. I believe that if it is discovered that gambling is a part of ‘drag racing’ and that it has been responsible for road deaths, especially of innocent people, then it is even more urgent that this activity be stamped out because, without any arrest and prosecutions, it would only get worse.
As a lay person I would say that it does not appear that it would be a difficult task to investigate. These events take place in public. By their nature they are noisy events. They attract a crowd of persons with motor cars which gather at certain times in certain places. There are many onlookers. Penetrating these activities should be a fairly easy task for experienced policemen. After sufficient investigation the participants can be charged and severe penalties sought.
Simultaneously, the police should bring this matter to the attention of the public for several reasons. Persons travelling on the roads at certain times and in certain areas should beware of the activity and take all necessary precautions. The travelling public should be on the lookout so that any suspicious driving can be reported to the police for investigation. There should be an educational aspect to the campaign pointing out the dangers of ‘drag racing’ to try to dissuade young people from participating in it. Special efforts should be made to apprehend the gamblers who are, in effect, the financiers of ‘drag racing’ which promotes it. There is nothing like a quick dollar to encourage reckless activity. And there is nothing like swift police action to stop it.