There is absolutely no doubt that the national coordinator of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO), Mr Egerton Newman, has been doing a sterling job in representing and lobbying on behalf of the members of his organisation.
He deserves genuine kudos for defending and interceding on behalf of JATOO whenever any situation arises that could prove adverse towards that organisation.
However, I must admit that, as a road user, I see the kaleidoscope of my life flashing before my eyes on many occasions whenever the operators of public transport vehicles do what they seem to do best - flout the road code and 'bad drive' everyone else in order to get fares.
Recently, my antennae went up when I read and then heard a news report that Mr Newman said, "Only three per cent of road accidents are our fault, so why are we being targeted?" First, I prefer the word 'crashes' instead of 'accidents'. Accidents are unavoidable; crashes aren't.
Let us assume that the figure is accurate. It begs the question: Is that three per cent of reported accidents? Mr Newman has been reported as saying that "some" accidents were not reported because the operators/owners opted to repair the damage themselves.
I submit that perhaps most minor fender-benders go unreported by public transport operators in order to avoid hiking their insurance rates. That three per cent figure does not reflect the true situation regarding crashes. Additionally, I doubt very much that any other single group of road users contributes to as much as three per cent of all crashes.
I am grateful for public transport; I have had to use it on many occasions. I also have many operators and owners as patients, so I obviously have nothing against them as a group.
However, anyone observing any major thoroughfare, anywhere and at anytime will see for themselves that many taxis and minibuses drive dangerously and behave disgracefully on our roads. They go up the downside and go down the upside of our roads. They overtake into oncoming traffic and force other drivers to take evasive actions ... or else. They overload their vehicles and consistently ignore all traffic signs, signals, markings and lights whenever it suits them. They speed, pull out in traffic, 'undertake', race each other, swerve and stop suddenly.
They stop to pick up or drop off passengers anywhere they please. Even at or in major intersections. They park to wait on passengers at the lights and obstruct traffic whenever the police are not there to move them along. These are the reasons why the senior superintendent of police in charge of traffic, Radcliffe Lewis, is forced to pay special attention to them.
The JATOO claim that "only three per cent of accidents" are the fault of taxis and minibuses ignores two extremely important facts. Even if the public transport operators are only to blame for three per cent of (reported) crashes, I submit that they contribute to quite a bit more.
And, the 'out and bad' (overtaking and breaking the traffic laws) behaviour of public transport drivers is influencing other road users to follow suit in order to get where they are going in a hurry. In other words, they have contributed significantly to the general decline in road discipline.
JATOO is crying foul and claiming that (corrupt) doctors and lawyers are to blame for increased insurance claims and payouts. However, if there were no crashes, there could not be increased claims.
JATOO has even threatened to undertake insuring its members (to circumvent reluctant insurers). I suggest that JATOO should undertake to police itself instead by noting/documenting the blatantly ridiculous and dangerous antics of some operators and disciplining or expelling them from that organisation.
Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.