Have readers been observing what we have been? The emergence of a worrying trend, in the past few months, where it seems that every time a commuter gets on a public service vehicle (PSV), he or she faces exposure to the high risk of becoming involved or, worse yet, being seriously injured in a traffic accident?
In the PSV sector, ZR route taxis and minibuses together account for the highest number of accidents on our roads. Of late, however, Transport Board buses seem to be in pursuit, raising obvious questions about the validity of their marketing pitch to commuters –– You Are Safer With Us.
The latest in a spate of PSV accidents –– and the third for this month –– occurred on Sunday night near Proute, St Thomas. A ZR van, reportedly transporting people home from a picnic, overturned, causing injuries to 13 passengers, six of whom had to be taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Within the previous three weeks –– on May 6, to be exact –– there was a mass casualty along Maxwell Road, Christ Church, following a collision between a ZR and a minibus. Eighteen commuters were injured. Two days later, PSVs were again in the news after a minibus and Transport Board bus collided at Eastland, St George. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries.
In the previous month, on April 6, ten people were injured in an accident involving a ZR and a car. Eight passengers on the ZR complained of body pains. And two weeks prior, there was another mass casualty following a collision between a Transport Board bus and minibus at Road View in St Peter. Twenty-eight people complained of injuries.
This spate of accidents speaks to the notorious indiscipline within the PSV sector, which shoulders a tremendous responsibility for public safety, but finds itself in a situation where it can be regarded more as representing a threat to that public safety. When are the authorities going to stop talking about stamping out indiscipline within the PSV sector –– which they have been doing for years –– and take decisive action?
We hope it does not take a fatal crash that shocks the country. But, given the way things are going, this grim possibility cannot be ignored.
For years now, PSVs have been doing nonsense on the roads. Stopping any and everywhere to take on and drop off passengers. Overtaking in reckless fashion. Moving off without signalling, in a display of inconsideration for other road users.
The list of bad habits of PSVs appears endless. Why does it seem so difficult to bring order to the sector? People advance various reasons, but the buck ultimately stops with the Government.
One of the core functions of the Government is to ensure there is order in the society. No other national institution has that overall role.
Of course, passengers too contribute to the indiscipline. They have to pay for a service but seem quite happy accepting it any old how, instead of telling the providers in no uncertain terms that they expect better. If commuters would take such a stand and withdraw patronage from offenders, it would hurt where it matters most –– in their pockets; and they would get the message.
It seems, however, commuters in some cases are prepared to put up with the risks to personal safety, especially on the ZRs because, in instances, they provide a more reliable service than the state-run Transport Board. Without an alternative, commuters are caught between a rock and a hard place. They also aid and abet PSVs by getting on and getting off anywhere other than at designated bus stops
We believe a solution to the indiscipline, specifically in the privately run segment of the PSV sector, can be found; but it requires collaboration first and then consensus among Government, PSV operators and the travelling public. It is for Government, through the Transport Authority as the regulator, to take the lead in this regard and establish some binding operational standards for the sector.
The PSV business model, in which crews have to meet daily earnings targets set by owners, is another major contributor to the indiscipline. It creates a dog-eat-dog environment where PSV crews do whatever they have to, to make money. A better business model needs to be explored.
The time for action is now –– to avert a major catastrophe that is waiting to happen. Otherwise, we may have to regretfully say: “Oh, how we wish we had!”
It would not make a difference then, because it would have been already too late.