RON IN COMMON: All talk, no action on delinquent drivers
WHETHER YOU are a motorist or a pedestrian, before you go on any road in Barbados you need to say a little prayer first, asking God’s guidance that you do not get into an accident, whether it is your fault or not.
Even if you are not a believer, then simply make a wish that all goes well for you and your family while on our roads.
With apparently thousands of motorists on this island’s roads without either road taxes or insurance cover, we are all at the mercy of God. If you are agnostic, atheist or simply a skeptic, then just expect the worst and hope for the best.
The situation is serious.
Minister of Transport and Works, Michael Lashley admitted to the severity of the problem during the recent Estimates Debates in the House of Assembly.
Anton Lovell, an official with the General Insurance Association of Barbados has been talking about this issue for many years while Sharmaine Roland-Bowen has also been addressing the issue non-stop.
Whenever he gets a chance, Sergeant Seibert Johnson of the Royal Barbados Police Force warns of the danger of motorists on the roads with unpaid road taxes and no insurance cover. And, he always promises that the lawmen will take action against the culprits.
All motorists and pedestrians using our roads can tell of a few experiences they would rather forget or find totally unbelievable. Getting into an accident with an insured driver is one headache, having your vehicle struck by a driver who then drives off and disappears is another, and having to deal with our now infamous ZR van drivers and those of Minibuses.
Of course not 100 per cent of them break the law, but the unruly corps of drivers who disregard everyone and everything, make it seems as the entire operation is one of a band of unrepentant lawbreakers. And on top of the lack of respect for the law, some seem to have no value for human life.
Lashley knows of this problem. So too does Roy Raphael and Morris Lee of the ZR and minibus associations; the insurance companies are well aware, so too is the Road Safety Association; the Transport Authority, the Licensing Department of the Transport Ministry; the Barbados Fire Service; and the police. All Barbadians are very aware of this national headache.
So whether it is the matter of people driving without the appropriate taxes and insurance or it is public service vehicle drivers flouting the law each and every day, the only thing being done in respond to these concerns is a lot of long talk, pure hot air.
There has been talk in the House of Assembly, talk on the radio-call in programmes; talk at political branch meetings; talk on Morning Barbados, talk at Town Hall meetings, talk at police headquarters, talk at insurance companies, talk at the Licensing Department, talk at the Transport Authority, talk at the scene of accidents, talk at the hospital, and talk at funerals. All talk and no action.
And imagine they are people who can action and do something.
I do not mean the Minister of Transport or any of his technocrats. There is the well-known inability of the public service to act in a timely manner. So even the promise of the introduction of the Electronic Vehicle Tracking System I expect will still be in the implementation stage a year from today.
I do not believe that as well meaning and decent both Raphael and Lee are, the drivers in the system will pay them much attention. And the owners, who are businesspeople taking a risk and looking for the highest return on investment, well, they will deal with the situation as the challenges arise.
If anything can be done, then I believe it is the insurance companies and the police who can cause a change in behaviour. Not just with the ZR and Minibus drivers but drivers all across Barbados.
The insurance companies must be united in their efforts to resolve this problem and not seek to get motor business from each other. They need to have accurate information which should be shared amongst each other, the Transport Authority, the Licensing Department and the police.
I cannot tell Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith and Superintendent Ian Branch along with other members of the Police Force how to do their jobs. But, I would nevertheless suggest to them that they undertake an island-wide day and night dragnet against all illegal motor infringements.
The police may have manpower limitation so I would suggest that they lean on Colonel Alvin Quintyne and his team at the Barbados Defence Force for about a month. I am not too sure how the staff at the Licensing Department and the Transport Authority can be used outside of the 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. hours, but they too should be roped in without having to get permission from either the National Union of Public Workers or the Barbados Workers Union.
There must be the application of technology since it is going to be important for the police to do things in real time.
So the illegal parking in The City, the illegal behaviour by the public service vehicles day and night, the motor-cyclists doing their wheelies on the public roads, the abandoned vehicles on the wayside, the parking at public events and blocking up someone’s driveway or other access to their homes will be dealt with.
So too will be those with the extremely loud music ; the unacceptable high levels of smog emitted by some vehicles; the unroadworthy vehicles, the vehicles with false registration numbers, the vehicles operating as hired vehicles without the appropriate permits; those without working park lights and numerous other infringements.
An end must be brought to those overloaded vehicles or the drivers who block up Tudor Street, Probyn Street, Marhill Street or River Road and those who do not want to pay to park at the Grantley Adams Airport but do so on the curbside without concern for any other road users.
The drivers of MP and ML and other state owned vehicles must also accept and recognise that the law applies to them as well.
It can be done, ensuring law and order, and compliance on this island’s roads. It must be done otherwise this would be just another example of 50 years of independence without responsibility.