Sat | Sep 30, 2023

Westmoreland taxi drivers adopt wait-and-see approach

Published:Tuesday | February 7, 2023 | 1:51 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer


PATRICK FORRESTER, president of the Petersfield Taxi Association in Westmoreland, says his members did not join Monday’s protest against aspects of the new Road Traffic Act provisions because they have not yet caught the fever.

He said the culture of Westmoreland taxi operators is to examine what is unfolding before springing into action.

“In Westmoreland, when it comes to demonstrations, most times, we actually wait to see what is happening up the line. I am of the view that after seeing what has happened up the line, then it is a possibility that we will have our own demonstration,” said Forrester.

He was reacting to strike action taken by some public passenger vehicle operators in sections of the island. The protest left several commuters stranded for hours and forcing some schools to reopen virtual classrooms for students to engage in lessons remotely.

The public transport operators protested provisions in the revised Road Traffic Act which took effect on February 1 and provides for stiffer penalties for breaches.

One taxi driver, who said that he provides services in the justice system, expressed concern that some aspects of the legislation are promoting conflict between passengers and drivers. He argued that it should not be the drivers who are prosecuted when passengers refuse to wear seat belts.

“If you asked them to put on their seat belt or find another driver, they are going to say that you disrespect them ... . It is going to cause war because some passengers fight over the simplest things these days,” the veteran taxi operator, who asked that his identity not be disclosed, told The Gleaner.

Nicoholett Parker, a shopkeeper from Whitehouse, Westmoreland, agreed.

“I believe that the passengers who are caught not wearing seat belts should be prosecuted by the police or Transport Authority and not the drivers,” Parker argued.

At the same time, Forrester noted that members of his association will be perusing the provisions of the Road Traffic Act at a meeting next Sunday.

He has not been getting many direct complaints about the revised laws.

“The one that I would think is an issue right now is the child seat. There is some misunderstanding with some other parts of the act. We are going to schedule a meeting with our membership this coming Sunday, and out of that meeting, we [will speak] more as to the concerns,” Forrester informed.

However, he noted that while there are promises for a re-examination of the child seat provision and an appeal for members of the security forces to exercise discretion in prosecuting breaches, Forrester said expressed concern that some cops could still penalise those not sticking to the letter of the law.