Grab the handbrake, kick out the driver!

Published: Monday | February 11, 2013 Comments 0

By Garth A. Rattray

We have all seen these headlines: 'Several students injured in St Ann minibus crash', 'Three Holmwood students among 4 dead in minibus crash', 'Three members of same British family killed in minibus crash in Jamaica', 'Nine injured in minibus crash', 'Taxi driver to be charged for Bustamante Highway crash', 'Two killed, five injured in taxi crash', and so on and so on.

When I read that the driver of the minibus that overturned in a ditch while travelling to Christiana was ticketed for careless driving about five minutes before the crash that injured several Holmwood Technical High School students, I was initially flabbergasted. But, then I remembered that anything can be expected from hustling public passenger vehicle drivers.

Privately owned public passenger vehicles are only in business to make profits. There is absolutely nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but whenever the ends (profits) justify the means (horrendous and often dangerous driving), that's another matter entirely.

Owners of public passenger vehicles often relate how expensive it is to pay all the requisite insurance fees, various licensing fees, repair/upkeep, staff, taxes, off-the-books expenses (loaders, extortionists) and still try to make a profit. Some set a lower minimum-income limit for the drivers and leave it up to them to hustle for the rest.

Drivers, therefore, compete aggressively with other vehicles as they jostle for passengers. And, we have all witnessed public passenger vehicles ignoring assigned lanes, stop signs, traffic lights, other road signs, overtaking lines of traffic, overtaking around blind corners, making new lanes, undertaking on the soft shoulder, bullying other motorists, speeding excessively, and blatantly driving dangerously.

Hellish roadhog

Most blame their actions on the need to make a profit, but some have told me that their passengers want to get where they are going in a hurry so they are simply complying with their wishes.

Sometimes when I have to yield or perform evasive action because of the dangerous and hoggish driving by minibuses or route taxis, if I'm not too busy trying to remain intact and alive, I get the opportunity to peer at the hell-spawned monster at the wheel and the passengers in his care. I have never seen any hint of panic or distress on any passenger's face. All seem calm and sometimes even pleased that they are getting to the head of the line.

So, each time that I become aware of some horrible tragedy involving a public passenger vehicle, I wonder what the passengers did to prevent the crash.

I know of instances where route taxi and/or minibus drivers have flouted the law so badly that the police give chase and try to stop them to no avail. Sometimes, drivers crash into other vehicles and break stop lights and road signs in a blind bid to escape. Passengers relate how they end up screaming and pleading to be let out.

Several drivers realise that, for the sake of everyone's safety, the police may not chase them as long as passengers are onboard. So, they take off like bats out of hell and endanger everyone in their flight from justice.

Honestly, I believe that the moment a bad driver begins to endanger lives, before he builds up speed, passengers should gang up to grab the handbrake, stop the vehicle and eject him.

Obviously, we just don't have enough traffic police to keep PPV drivers in check and the drivers are never going to police themselves. It's full time that passengers get it in their heads that for everyone's sake, they must take responsibility for their own safety by protesting vociferously and remonstrating loudly whenever drivers break the road traffic law. The consequences of their inaction can be deadly.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.

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