The heads of the island’s public service transport associations have given Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley thumbs up for the new Road Safety Act which will address distracted driving, breathalyzer and drug testing.
But Lashley has also been criticized for suggesting that public service vehicles (PSVs) are the road users engaged in reckless driving.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, President of the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO) Morris Lee said that any piece of legislation to ensure the public’s safety would have his body’s support.
However, he took offence to Lashley’s insinuation that PSVs were the chief offenders of reckless driving.
“The only concern that I have is that when the statement was made it seemed to project that it was something targeting PSVs, and obviously PSVs are not the only road users. There is great concern as to how the road is being used by all modes of transport,” contended Lee, saying that the nearly 600 minibuses and vans that function as PSVs account for less than one per cent of the more than 150,000 vehicles on the island’s roads.
He argued that Minister Lashley’s focus on irresponsible drivers should not be limited to the operators of PSVs but to the public at large, as motorcycle riders and drivers of cars could be found racing on the highways or otherwise using the road irresponsibly on a daily basis.
“There should be a general concern about how the road is being used,” stressed Lee.
He further pointed out that statistics showed the 17 road fatalities recorded for the year were not linked to public transport vehicles or their operators.
“If you were to do an investigation of the amount of road fatalities so far for the year, I would say to you that 99 per cent of those are non-PSV accidents,” the APTO head noted.
“The statistics do not reflect what people are saying [about PSVs], especially when you look at road fatalities and what vehicles were involved in road fatalities.”
Despite his defence of members of his association, Lee commended Minister Lashley for bringing the legislation at a critical time.
“When you look at the fact that between January and March we had more road deaths in those months than we had in the whole of last year, I think the Minister is on the right path in making the streets safer,” he said.
Chairman of the Alliance of Owners of Public Service Vehicles, Roy Raphael also gave Lashley kudos, adding that his association welcomed any opportunity to promote and ensure the safety of the public.
He noted that since the Alliance was established, there has been a decrease in complaints about, and accidents involving, PSVs.
Raphael said the organization was doing its part to create a peaceful and hassle-free environment for commuters, and disclosed that a free Wi-Fi service would be introduced on a bus along the Speightstown route in a few weeks.
“There are issues where people complain of the loud music and explicit music that creates some issues for the public generally . . . . Most people who enter the bus generally have their cell phones connected to their ears, playing what kind of music they like. When we introduce an Internet bus, we expect to have a very high ridership because if you enter the bus you will have access to Wi-Fi and you can use WhatsApp, you can download movies, and there is no need to listen to music on the bus,” he said.
“If you want to listen to whatever type of radio or type of station that you want to, it isn’t limited only to the driver or the conductor.”