Over the last few years, we have had some amendments made to the 1984 Road Traffic Act based on safety regulations that were coming into force the world over, such as the mandatory use of seatbelts and helmets for cyclists and motorcyclists, and penalties for the use of mobile telephones and other communications devices while driving.
Despite this, there are still some outstanding matters that successive governments have yet to address which leave the average commuter – and we are all commuters – somewhat puzzled.
First, what is being done about the stunt motorcycle riders who parade on different sections of the ABC Highway, weaving in and out of traffic, putting their lives and that of other road users at risk on a daily basis? The majority of these motorcycles have no lights or licence plates; we know there are some enthusiasts who participate in motocross events who use these bikes strictly on off-road trails, but who else brings in these bikes and how do they get into the hands of the young men who ride them on the open road? These men treat them like glorified bicycles but they are much more lethal than that, hence the urgent need to regulate them properly and severely penalise the riders and owners who do not follow basic safety guidelines.
There should also be regulations governing the size of licence plates for motorcycles, especially the high performance sport bikes, which often have microscopic decals masquerading as licence plates on the front and back, sometimes mounted in places where they are barely visible, such as under the rear fender where rainwater residue and other road debris can obscure them even further.
The four-wheeled All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) that were becoming popular a decade ago are no longer a regular sight on our roads, but they should never have been there in the first place. Even the manufacturers of these vehicles issue disclaimers on their websites and in their brochures stating clearly that they should only be used on off-road trails and under no circumstances should they be driven on highways.
Over the years, allegations have surfaced that some people buy taxi permits so they can import luxury cars and SUVs duty-free – vehicles which they never had any intention of using to take paying passengers to and from their destinations. How is that being addressed, along with the high level of inconsistency in the configurations of vehicles registered as taxis? For example, Barbados may be the only jurisdiction in the world where a crew cab pickup can be registered as a taxi; where both conventional saloon cars and 15-passenger vans are marked “Z” – a designation originally intended to apply only to vehicles that can accommodate between four and seven passengers; and where maxi-taxis, those that carry “ZM” plates, vary between seven-passenger minivans and 30-seat coaches, the latter of which should generally carry either “B” or “BT” designations. Where is the legislation or enforcement to finally straighten this out?
All-electric and hybrid taxis have also become the norm in many big cities around the world. Will our taxi drivers get any incentives beyond the duty-free concessions they now enjoy if they switch to a more environmentally friendly vehicle?
The Minister of Transport announced late last year that commercial vehicles would carry a blue and white “C” licence plate, but it was never quite clear what he meant. There are lots of small vans and station wagons that food vendors use in their work, but these also double as personal vehicles. Crew cab pickups have also grown tremendously popular as private vehicles for personal use. Will these qualify for the “C” designation or retain the current private numbers? Will there be a weight limit to determine the size or configuration of trucks that will use the “C” plate, as there has been with the yellow and black “SL” plate heavy duty trucks for decades? Clearly, no decision has been made on this because we have yet to see any vehicle with a “C” plate.
We also need regulations governing trailers, both the small ones often towed behind cars or pickups usually by farmers and the heavy duty articulated ones. Too many of the smaller trailers appear to be “home-made specials” built in a haphazard manner with scrap wood or metal, loose wheels, bald tyres and no lights or reflective tape on the rear. Even more dangerously, the articulated ones also have bald or flaking tyres and missing taillights. How often are these inspected, if at all?
Emission testing for both noxious fumes and noise should also become the norm. When vehicles are inspected and faults detected, if this is not already done, owners should be told clearly what they should rectify and given a definitive timeframe in which to fix these faults and sanctions for failure to comply, depending on the seriousness of the problem.
We appreciate the work being done by the Ministry of Transport. But there are still too many areas that have been ignored for a long time, and we need a greater level of consistency in the enforcement of some of the regulations that have been passed, much less urgent attention to the glaring gaps in rules not yet in force but long overdue.