Crazy party crashers! - Speed, alcohol, daredevil revelry behind bus accidents
An amateur video showing a wild party under way on a bus taking persons on a beach trip minutes before it crashed last week has caused director of the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport, Kenute Hare, to plead with passengers to take responsibility for their well-being, in situations where drivers have abdicated that position of control.
The video shows passengers consuming alcohol while dancing to loud music, with some persons hanging out of the vehicle. One female passenger is seen climbing through a window of the bus and proceeds to dance outside while barely hanging on to the window frame of the moving vehicle. She is later joined by a male passenger, who also dances outside the vehicle, while the bus travels at high speed to the roaring cheers of other passengers.
For Hare, the behaviour of the passengers was not only shocking but could have had a role to play in the accident.
"When I saw the video, I was shocked because I could not believe adults could be behaving in this reckless manner," declared Hare.
"What they didn't realise is [that] by them hanging on one side of the bus like that they would have affected the balance of the bus, so when it was at critical speed manoeuvring corners or overtaking would have been affected, which is why it ultimately overturned," added Hare.
DRIVER NOT BLAMELESS
He argued that the video was a sad reflection on the passengers, but more so on the driver, whose failure to restore order on the bus made him a willing participant in the party atmosphere.
"The driver should have stopped that bus and demanded that everyone comes inside, but he, himself, was drinking, so just in the same way that these passengers were unable to make good decisions, he was unable to do the same.
"Based on my intelligence, this is regular behaviour on buses heading out on excursions like these; the passengers encourage the driver to speed. As a matter of fact, there is a Vybz Kartel song called Speedometer Bun Up, and when this song is playing, passengers encourage or boost the driver to increase the speed," said Hare.
The driver of the bus which was taking persons on beach excursion to Negril on Easter Sunday has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. He was ticketed for speeding less than 10 minutes before the crash in which 16 persons were injured.
"Drivers must realise that when terrible incidents like this happen, they cannot point to passengers and say it is their fault because, ultimately, they are the ones who will have to bear responsibility, and passengers, themselves, must stand up and say something when they are on buses that are speeding out of control," said Hare.
According to recent figures from the Road Safety Unit, speeding has been identified as the chief factor in 18 of the 86 collisions that have been recorded since the start of this year, a statistic that is not lost on Hare.
"If drivers fail to take respon-sibility and get carried away, passengers must take a stand and say this kind of behaviour or excessive speeding will not be tolerated. We have to stand together on issues of road safety, because this kind of behaviour is not what Jamaica is about," said Hare.
While accepting that the main reasons for the crash were speeding and alcohol consumption, Professor Orlean Brown-Earle, chairperson of the Behavioural and Social Sciences Department at the Northern Caribbean University, told The Sunday Gleaner that a number of other psychological factors were at play aboard the 'party bus', before tragedy struck.
"It's not uncommon for group dynamics to take hold and cause persons to lose the ability to make reasonable decisions in these circumstances. In a large crowd setting, the desire to fall in line
with the crowd becomes most important," argued Brown-Earle.
"But what could have also been at play is the need for the driver to fit in for economic reasons. He would want show the revellers that he can party like them and so they will hire him again for other trips so he can make more money."