#BTEditorial – The rule of law applies to minibuses and ZRs too!

In a Bridgetown magistrate’s court last Friday, a minibus driver appearing on charges related to 21 traffic violations, presented a rather interesting defence in obvious justification of the lawlessness and indiscipline which Barbadians have come to associate with that particular segment of the public transportation sector.

The repeat traffic offender told Magistrate Graveney Bannister: “It is very difficult to drive minibus and not break the law. I don’t plan to break the law. It is just happens when I out working and looking for money,” said the gentleman, who ended up going to jail. However, his argument did not end there. He also contended: “Just because we are driving minibus, we don’t deserve to get report and lock up all the time.”

It was a defence which not only provided an interesting insight into the thinking apparently informing the behaviour of some minibus and ZR drivers but was also grounded in a logic which clearly suggested that PSV drivers should somehow be treated differently from others for violating the road traffic laws simply because they are hustling for money and making an honest living.

Imagine if other motorists were to follow suit and present a similar case for special treatment when they break the law, absolute chaos would prevail on our roads. It would boil down to a case of everyone doing as they please which would lead to a really dangerous situation where safety would be severely compromised and human lives placed at great risk.

To ensure the existence of law and order not only on the public roads and highways but also in every other aspect of human activity, modern society has as its sheet anchor a fundamental principle known as the rule of law. It is there to ensure that while citizens go about their business in exercise of their rights and freedoms, they do so in a responsible manner so that others can equally do likewise.

We are confident that we speak for the vast majority of Barbadians when we say that the culture of indiscipline and lawlessness which has been allowed to develop within the PSV sector over the years, has become a major hindrance to others in the enjoyment of their rights while travelling on this country’s roads. Indeed, certain practices by some PSV drivers pose a serious risk to the safety of their own passengers, other motorists and, in some cases, pedestrians and bystanders.

Examples include reckless overtaking sometimes at high speed, indiscriminate stopping at places other than designated bus stops to take on or put down passengers, going off designated routes, blocking the free flow of traffic by stopping side by side in the road so that drivers can engage in conversation, playing of loud music and abusing passengers who complain, stopping and facilitating alighting passengers to cross the road from in front, at great danger of being struck by an oncoming vehicle which may use the opportunity to overtake.

Is it any wonder that minibuses and ZRs are involved in so many accidents on our roads, sometimes triggering mass casualty responses? At least we can be thankful that there have been relatively few fatalities over the years but, unless there is firm resolve by the authorities to put an end to the lawlessness, such luck may eventually run out. The loss of one life through such carelessness is the loss of one too many.

More of our motorists, for their own safety, ought to invest in acquiring the skills of defensive driving. Such skills are necessary to help avoid getting into collisions with PSVs which tend to stop suddenly ahead. Defensive driving enables motorists to anticipate actions that are likely to be taken by the vehicle directly ahead and to be alert and prepared to deal effectively with any such possibility. PSV drivers need to be subjected to more careful screening during the recruitment process and be fully sensitized of their responsibilities to other road users before being allowed behind the wheel.

It is past time that PSVs are brought in line and made to show more consideration and respect for other road users. We hope, at least, that the recently passed Road Traffic Act will help to bring about this much-needed change. Given the deterioration of the service provided by the state-owned Transport Board in recent years, the contribution of PSVs to public transportation will undeniably remain crucial in the years ahead.

6 Responses to #BTEditorial – The rule of law applies to minibuses and ZRs too!

  1. Derek December 4, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    ZR vans are not supposed to stop at bus stops at all . Not under the current law . They come under taxis . If a ZR van get in an accident in a bus layby he will be in the wrong . He isn’t supposed to be there . A ZR can’t be reported for stopping where there is no bus stop . Not under the current law .

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  2. John Everatt December 5, 2017 at 12:30 am

    Come on folks. If you want to change the ZR culture then you have to change the system. Each is competing with the other for fares and this results in a dog eat dog situation out there. With the first 500 dollars going to the owner the driver and conductor have to hustle to make a living. Those owners are the people in power and have no interest in seeing the system change. So the status quo will continue. Let’s not pretend anything different.

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  3. Sue Donym December 5, 2017 at 8:02 am

    The rule of law applies to everyone. What the particular minibus driver said is an indication of how HE feels. I don’t know that when a car or motorcycle driver offers a defence for his action, that it is assumed to be a statement typical of the sector.

    Question: are the authorities guilty of encouraging the perception that there are different rules, or a varying desire to police sections of PSVs – is there any truth that Transport Board bus drivers can expect leniency or an escape from prosecution in a way that is not afforded to minibuse and ZR drivers?
    Are we as vigorous in our pursuit of private vehicles that block or occupy laybys for PSVs

    Let’s also talk about whether the authorities have actively contributed to the state of things by failing to train the PSV crews while taking licence and permit fees – which are really official certification of fitness for the job. Owners can only employ from the authorised pool, so what does that say about official oversight?

    The Road Traffic Act itself with its new provisions, legitimises the laissez faire attitude of the authorities who will seek to make an owner lose his permit for offences commited by a duly licensed driver – an adult who is liable for his own offences under any other law! The Act has some serious flaws which will be successfully challenged.

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  4. Tony Webster December 5, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Clearly, the emergence of a new C.N.C.D. All in all, a botched job, by legislators; Transport Authority; drivers; owners. Remember also, dear Ed., that those owners are “diverse”.

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  5. Tony Waterman December 5, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    “Imagine if other motorists were to follow suit and present a similar case for special treatment when they break the law, absolute chaos would prevail on our roads. It would boil down to a case of everyone doing as they please which would lead to a really dangerous situation where safety would be severely compromised and human lives placed at great risk.”

    I Have news for you Sir!!!! There is already CHAOS on the Roads in Barbados.

    Nothing will change, because the Owners of many of these ZR Vans and Mini Busses are Politicians (Law Makers), does anyone think that they will Cut their own Throats anytime soon ???

    Elected Politicians and persons in Positions of AUTHORITY, should NOT be ALLOWED to be Business Owners, when the decisions that they will have to make could put their Business in a Favourable Position.
    This is exactly why Mr. Bill Morneau, the Canadian Finance Minister, is now embroiled with the Opposition Parties over some of his Business actions. no such luck in Brbados.

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  6. Tobias C. Worrell December 12, 2017 at 4:14 am

    Mr. Waterman, I could not agree with you more. For years we clamored for integrity legislation; legislation that would ferret out the patterns of ownership among politicians as part of its function.
    THE FACT IS THAT WE ARE NOT GOING TO HAVE A DECENT SYSYTEM WHEN WE ALLOW THE DECISION MAKERS TO OWN THE VERY FOCUS OF THEI ILL BEHAVIOR; THIS BARBARISM; THIS ABJECT DISREGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE.
    LIKE anything else their minds and hearts are on the money to be made and so, however that is done, its good enough for them.
    FOR YEARS this has been a problem and government HAS TURN ITS HEAD AWAY FROM DEALING WITH IT. IT A DARN SHAME.
    THERE IS NO DIFFICULTY HERE: THESE BUSES SHOULD BE APPROPRIATELY LICENSED OR THE OWNERS fined or jailed or both; THE DRIVERS should be currently licensed and if found not to be, fines should be levied and even jailed for repeat offenders; the OWNERS TOO should be fined and even license for that vehicle suspended for a certain time.
    EVERY YEAR, INSURANCE COVERING FULLY ALL EVENTUALITIES SHOULD BE SHOWN TO AUTHORITIES; LICENSES CHECKED, THOSE WITH A CERTAIN NUMBER OF OFFENCES FINED, SUSPENDED FOR A TIME.
    ROAD TRAFFIC NEEDS TO BE REGULATED IN A WAY THAT SET UP AREAS FOR PUTTING OFF PASSENGERS AND THE ACT CHANGED TO ALLOW THEM TO PARK BEHIND THE BUSES.
    ALL SHORT CUTS SHOULD BE UNDERTAKEN AT THE RISK OF LOSING YOUR LICENSE; BEING FINED AND OR JAILED.
    REGULATION GOVERNING SPEEDING SHOULD ALSO BE IN PLACE TO ENSURE ROAD SAFETY AND FINES AND SUSPENSES METED OUT.
    UNTIL THIS SYSTEM OF TRANSPORTATION IS REGULATED AND ENFORCED WITH HEAVY FINES AND JAIL TIME, THE SYSTEM WILL CONTINUE UNTIL THE ‘WRONG’ PERSONS ARE KILLED.
    OWNERS OF THESE VEHICLES, politicians or not, MUST BE MADE REPSONSIBLE FOR BRINGING SOME SANITY TO THIS SITUATION.
    GOVERNMENT, IT IS UP TO YOU TO SHOW BARBADIANS THAT WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS AND WE VALUE THE LIFE OF EACH AND EVERY PERSON. MY GOD, WITHER OUR COUNTRY.

    Reply

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