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Just too many crashes! - Bus drivers in close to 2,000 accidents in two years

Published:Sunday | April 17, 2016 | 4:00 AMRyon Jones
Scores of persons trying to take pictures of a crashed JUTC bus on Orange Street in downtown Kingston.

The State-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) recorded close to 2,000 accidents last year, with just over 75 per cent of drivers being involved in at least one accident over the period.

But the company's managing director, Colin Campbell, is not daunted as he deems its drivers to be the best trained on the island.

"We are on the road from four o'clock in the morning to midnight, so we are on the road a lot and we have 452 buses, so the risk is high," argued Campbell.

"But it is acknowledged that our drivers are the best trained in Jamaica. They are better than the police, better than the firemen, better than the Jamaica Defence Force, because our training school actually has programmes to help assist training those other places.

"Our training programme is good, but there are some people who when they go on the road they really don't adhere to the training," added Campbell.

Figures released by the JUTC through an access to information request show 846 of its bus drivers were involved in 1,997 accidents between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2015, with 278 drivers navigating the roads accident free.

The figures show that two drivers were involved in nine accidents over the two-year period, while several others were involved in six, seven or eight.

 

WHO'S TO BLAME?

 

But Campbell argued that not all the accidents were the fault of the bus drivers.

"The first thing we have to do is determine whether or not the accidents were what we call 'at fault' accidents. A driver could be involved in nine accidents and none of them were his fault," Campbell reasoned.

While acknowledging that it is high for more than 75 per cent of the JUTC's drivers to be involved in accidents in 24 months, Campbell said a different benchmark is used by the company to determine road-safety standards.

"The statistics we use to measure is not so much the individual drivers, but we try to achieve the international standard of one accident per every 50,000 kilometres," said Campbell.

"Generally speaking, we are significantly below that. Between April 2015 and March 2016 we recorded one accident in every 30,000 kilometres; improved from one in 26,000 kilometres the previous financial year, but we're trying to reach one in 50,000 kilometres," added.

The JUTC managing director admitted that the accidents have been costing the company significant sums of money, especially when personal injuries are involved.

"If the drivers are found to be at fault, however, they are required to attend a hearing, and if the damage resulting from the accident is more than $150,000 they are required to pay a portion of it."

According to Campbell, there are several programmes being utilised by the JUTC to help promote and develop safer driving measures, such as incentives and training.

"We have sent every one of them on training and retraining in defensive driving, and everyone had to do that last year. We had a programme with the University of the West Indies as well, where we looked at the main causes (of the accidents) and tried to go through that with our drivers."

The Jamaica Urban Transit Company is projected to see its loss from its operations grow to $1.8 billion this fiscal year, up from $981 million last year.

Figures contained in the 2016-2017 Jamaica Public Bodies Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure show the bus company forecasting revenue of $5.5 billion with expenditure of $10.4 billion. But a $3.1 billion grant from the State is expected to reduce the overall operating loss.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com