Screening before steering
Following the crash of a Toyota Coaster bus in Trelawny on Easter Monday, president of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services, Egerton Newman, says that prospective drivers will now go through a rigorous screening process.
The crash, which happened in Duncans, Trelawny, resulted in 16 persons being seriously injured. One person died last Wednesday. The bus was travelling from Kingston to Negril on a party trip, when it crashed along a section of the North Coast Highway.
"We are saying to bus owners now, effective immediately, all drivers who wish to be employed in the system must go through rigorous interviews and they must have recommendations from at least two notaries. One should be a pastor or
principal and police, inspector and higher. We believe these recommendations are important," Newman said, while condemning the actions of the bus driver.
Since the crash, horrific images of those injured and a video showing persons gyrating inside and also while protruding from the bus to loud music while it was in motion have been posted on social media website Facebook.
In contrast to these distracting activities, the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) prohibits passengers from behaving boisterously when its units are hired for excursions. According to Marketing and Communications manager at the JUTC, Clinton Clarke, the state-owned bus company and the person renting a unit enter into a contract which bans such behaviour.
"The contract stipulates how they are to behave when they rent a bus from the JUTC. A part of our contract is that there can't be any body protrusion. Our buses are always locked. The last time we had this kind of thing was at the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) conference. We ensure that everything is alright from a mechanical standpoint and that it is clean and well-prepared," Clarke said.
Newman said the police should be blamed for not taking the proper action against the Coaster driver involved the accident, even though he had been ticketed 10 minutes before the crash. He also blamed the passengers for their behaviour on board the bus.
"This is a tripartite issue. The police must be blamed. The police stopped the bus 10 minutes before that crash and gave him a ticket for speeding. The vehicle should have been checked. The passengers must also be blamed for egging on the driver," he said.
To prevent a similar crash from occurring, Newman said he will be leading a road-safety campaign for bus drivers and conductors. He was also quick to point out that coaster-bus crashes made up five per cent of road crashes last year.
Head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's (JCF) Traffic Division, Senior Superintendent Calvin Allen, said the driver, following a breathalyser test performed after the crash, has been charged for having excess alcohol in his system. This is in addition to being charged with causing death by dangerous driving.