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Minibus madness not only here


Al Gilkes

Minibus madness not only here

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Did you hear about the politician who, amid growing concerns over passenger safety on minibuses, decided to take a first-hand look at the reported problem.
He wanted to see if all he had heard was true, about drivers driving while talking or texting on their cell phones, counting fares in one hand and while holding the steering wheel in the other, slowing down and blocking traffic then racing in a mad dash to pick up another passenger and so on and so on.
So, the politician in question decided to do what none before him had done, to go where none before had dared go. He decided to take a ride on a minibus. After his experience he reported in part: “As I rode from one end of town to the other, I realized how dangerous it was. The racing to corners to pick up passengers. The near sideswipes of vehicles. The passenger safety was just at risk.”
Now before any of you minibus and ZR bashers mount your soap boxes to call on this or any other politician to “tek dem off de road”; and, conversely, before any of you owners or drivers start crying for people to stop trying “to prevent we from mekking a dollar”, check this out.
None of the above occurred in Barbados. As a result, the politician in question was not own minister or shadow minister responsible for public transportation, or any local politician for that matter.
The report comes all the way from New Jersey in the United States where there is currently quite a bit of concern about the operation of more than 6 000 privately-owned minibuses, called jitneys. Concerns expressed include sprinting against one another for passengers, inventing their own bus stops and rules of the road and talking or texting behind the wheel.
Their drivers are notoriously reckless and in a surprise inspection in North Bergen some time ago officials found major violations involving brakes, exhaust systems, lighting, steering and suspension, and, in some cases, uninsured drivers.
In the wake of a fatal accident two years ago which involved a driver who had been issued seven traffic tickets in two years for infractions ranging from speeding to blowing through a red light and a stop sign, Assemblyman Charles Mainor decided he would take a ride as State Senator Nicholas Sacco prepared to drop a bill this week that will attempt to reel in the worst abusers. The bill is in fact an expansion on a proposal by Mainor himself.
Among other reforms, they’re hoping to put the jitneys under the oversight of the Motor Vehicle Commission, increase inspections and fines for unlicensed drivers, require buses to post a complaint hot line and be fully insured.
By the way, in case you missed me at any of the Crop Over activities, it’s because I have been down with a really bad case of sinusitis and as a result did most of my participation in front of the television screens. I was there for all the events brought by CBC free or pay-per-view.
I must confess that on Kadooment Day I couldn’t take it anymore and eased down to Spring Garden in the cool of the evening to spend a few hours and enjoy all that was happening as this year’s festival wound down to its end.
•Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm. Email [email protected]

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