The two umbrella associations for private public service vehicle (PSV) operators have come out in strong support of proposed changes to the Road Traffic Amendment Act.
As part of the amendments which were tabled in Parliament yesterday by Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley, PSV operators are to be subjected to random drug and alcohol testing, amid a wider legislative crackdown on reckless behaviour on Barbados’ streets.
However, in welcoming the move by Government, Chairman of the Association of Private Transport Operators (APTO) Morris Lee told Barbados TODAY that his organization felt the changes were long overdue.
“We support drug testing, blood testing, anything that is designed to make the streets safer has our support,” Lee said, while suggesting that the island was 20 years behind in terms of its road traffic regulations.
However, the APTO head cautioned that the law would have to be carefully applied by law enforcement officers with a view to ensuring that private PSVs in particular were neither targeted nor ostracized.
“There must be care and wisdom taken in terms of how the law is administered because PSVs are deemed to be the object of everybody’s attention,” Lee said, while warning that there was widespread lawlessness on the streets and that the private operators were not the only ones at fault.
“It [the bad behaviour] is not just restricted to PSVs,” Lee stressed, adding that the operators would have to be more vigilant and careful about how they conducted themselves and utilized the roads.
“PSVs that are caught in the act, the law must be enforced and they only have themselves to blame, but at the same time as an association we want to continue to warn them and encourage them to do what is responsible because people’s lives are at stake,” Lee said.
In introducing the amended legislation, Lashley pointed to the 24 road deaths recorded here so far this year, adding that the Freundel Stuart administration was determined to rid the country of the “reckless and inconsiderate behaviour” of some drivers.
“We have decided that we want to bring into the Road Traffic Act the random alcohol and drug testing of any person who has been granted a driver’s licence for [an] articulated vehicle or a public service vehicle,” Lashley announced, while noting that there were numerous instances of PSV operators, as well as some Transport Board drivers, “driving up and down with [alcoholic beverages] in their hands and sometimes stopping at the shop and buying two beers and coming back and driving.
“I am saying if you are serious about road safety . . . we must try to reach the ‘vision zero’ in our approach to road fatalities in this country, and accidents as a whole,” the Minister of Transport and Works said.
However, while suggesting that it was the minority and not the majority of drivers who were guilty of drinking and driving, President of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) Roy Raphael told Barbados TODAY that his members would be complying with the changes once they became law.
“We have seen an improvement in PSV operators over the last five years. We have seen an increased number of them wearing uniforms even on weekends and we are seeing a lot of them being responsible,” Raphael said, stressing that “they are more good PSV operators than bad.
“They are a few bad elements within the system and we believe that we need to work closely with the Ministry of Transport to route them out,” he added.
The proposed amendments to the Road Traffic Act must be approved by both Houses of Parliament before they become law.