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EDITORIAL: Better policing a must

Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: Better policing a must

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MANY YEARS AGO promoters of safe driving on our roads adopted and pushed a simple message: accidents don’t happen – they are caused.

This week’s tragic accident involving a route taxi as it entered the River Terminal in The City, resulting in injures to almost two dozen did not just happen – it was caused. We expect that police investigators and the relevant persons involved in traffic management will determine what was the cause and who, if anyone, was liable.

What we don’t need an investigation to conclude, however, is that the suffering endured by the schoolchildren and their families should never be allowed to recur.

There must be greater policing of all aspects of public transportation in Barbados. All vehicles used in the carriage of fee-paying passengers must be more rigorously inspected and prohibited from being used in this way if there are any factors that would make them unsafe.

All those employed as drivers of these vehicles must be made to operate under strict rules that make it hard for them to step out of line. The now common practice of driving buses, minibuses and ZR vans while using cellular phones must be stamped out. Persons who do it must be made to feel the full weight of the law.

No longer should those who police our roads allow operators to feel comfortable holding the steering wheel with one hand while having a beer or stout in the other and casually leaning out the window as upwards of two dozen passengers sit like lambs awaiting the inevitable slaughter.

We go further. If we believe that nationally it is important that we randomly test athletes even younger than 15 year olds who take part in track and field, football, basketball and bodybuilding for drugs when essentially the only ones they hurt with their habits are themselves, how much more important must it be today to test individuals who drive PSVs with as much as 60 passengers aboard?

But all this points to an overarching scenario that must be considered as we attempt to bring some order to public transport. We are where we are today because we have not approached the matter in a holistic way. It is time we sent the PSV operators and owners a strong message that all infractions will be met with a stern response.

When operators are allowed to stop anywhere  to pick up and set down passengers, when they

can park in the midst of heavy traffic and block intersections without a care, when the authorities mandate uniforms for them and they choose whether or not they will comply, when there are standards relating to window tints, horns, music, et cetera, and operators defy them all day with no intervention from authorities, why would it surprise us when they create life-threatening infractions?

For decades we have practised highway and public transport management in a way that has emboldened the ZR and minibus operators. We have set the stage for a major tragedy and we should not pretend we are shocked when it occurs.

We appreciate the statement of Minister of Transport Michael Lashley that tough new rules are coming for the sector, but except for a few systemic weaknesses or failures to keep legislation up-to-date, our problem has largely been the result of a failure to enforce, not a lack of rules to be enforced.

We have failed to protect those Springer Memorial students and collectively we all stand indicted.