Tue | Jan 28, 2020

Jaristotle's Jottings | Trailer loads of danger

Published:Thursday | December 5, 2019 | 3:42 AM
A policeman checks the damage to a police service vehicle that was involved in an accident with a truck along Spanish Town Road, in the vicinity of the Three Miles overpass in Kingston yesterday.
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The year has not yet ended, and we are crashing towards the 400 mark for road-related deaths. It is not that the relevant authorities are oblivious to the underlying causes for these mounting road fatalities and accidents, but from the average road users’ perspective, they seem unable to cut to the core of the problem. What will it take to spur them to begin taking the necessary hardline enforcement measures to stem this problem? A multi-death incident of catastrophic proportions?

I see where at least one legislator, St James Central’s Heroy Clarke, is trying to address the issue by calling for the imposition of liabilities on culpable motorists [and anyone else] who damage ‘road furniture’, whether through accidents or deliberately.

Reciprocity

No problem with that approach, a useful tool to add to the arsenal of sanctions and deterrents. However, let me ask this: will the State compensate me when my jalopy is damaged as a result of poorly maintained roads? I pay my taxes, like so many other road users, and yet I am subjected to unsatisfactory, often dangerous road conditions which take a heavy toll on Betsy, my faithful vehicle of umpteen years.

The other aspect of my concerns regarding compensation surrounds the issue of State liability when agents of the State fail to carry out their duties, and where such dereliction results in the loss of life and damage to property.

It is no secret that there are countless vehicles on the road which are absolutely not roadworthy, notwithstanding that the documents may suggest that they have been passed fit for road use. That is one problem. However, let me focus on an issue that I consider to be cause for particular concern.

In recent weeks, we have had two accidents at Flat Bridge involving trucks hauling trailers with containers. Just last week, I was driving through a section of Montego Bay at night. The area was not well lit, and the road was cluttered with vehicles of all descriptions parked on either side. Just as I was rounding a bend, there, in front of me, was a parked trailer. Suffice to say, my Betsy was almost instantaneously transformed into a convertible.

The trailer had no lights, no reflectors and no licence plate. Two tyres were flat, and from the bush growing under the wheels, it would appear this thing had been there for quite some time. I took note.

Vicarious liability

Since then, I have made it a point to observe the condition of the heavy-duty trucks and trailers hauling containers around town, oftentimes driven at bat-out-of-hell speed. Most of the trailers are devoid of lights and reflectors, bear no registration plates, and are fitted with tyres that have long passed their retirement date, not to mention wheels that wobble like out-of-tune dancers.

Yet, there they are, being used to haul these enormous containers along busy roadways populated with other vehicles and pedestrians. Surely, this is a dangerous dereliction of duty and care on the part of the State: accidents waiting to happen.

Who is going to take responsibility for the loss of lives and damage to property as and when one of these unroadworthy trailers, laden with a container, becomes the cause of a major accident? Bear in mind that while the size of these trailers and containers may contribute to the impact of an accident, there are also the contents of the containers to be considered: chemicals, flammable and explosive materials come to mind.

So, I again ask about the readiness of the State to assume liability where derelictions result in losses of life and property. Are the authorities ready to shoulder this trailer load of responsibility?

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