Two recent events made me ponder on middle grounds recently. A couple of days ago, I saw an article in the paper from a senior member of the Royal Barbados Police Force that caught my attention. The officer was outlining a case to have our road laws adjusted so that the Force only had to deal with automobile accidents where there were injuries and fatalities. I wholeheartedly support the move and I hope it is a change that we can institute sooner rather than later.
Waiting for the police to arrive to fender benders causes frustration and wastes a significant amount of commuter time, not only for the parties involved in the accident but also for those who are forced to either negotiate the traffic that quickly builds or find complete alternate routes.
It makes complete sense for the Force to relinquish the role to the roadside assistance of the insurance companies. They have been, for some time, carrying out that duty; so they and the police are often duplicating efforts. I am sure that the police have considered all the angles to the handover, but I wanted to underline the assignment of liability and accidents involving public service vehicles (PSVs).
The rules that govern the assignment of liability in an accident cannot be solely the choice of the insurer of the vehicle. I believe that the insured should be able to make a case using the Road Traffic Act of Barbados as a redress if this is possible in any way.
A magistrate in Barbados publicly discussed the level of lawlessness on the island’s roads earlier this week. Some of the people engaged in lawlessness cause accidents and then ‘innocent’ people are made to bear costs for accidents caused by the inconsiderate use of the road.
I think all accidents involving PSVs, whether major or minor, should remain with the police to assess. This is important, both to ensure that passengers involved are in no way disenfranchised and also so that the levels and types of these accidents can be monitored. We know that there are still major concerns with discipline and order in the PSV sector and until things are better controlled, the RBPF should remain involved with every aspect of that sector.
I think with a few guidelines to ensure that the general public is protected, we could consider ourselves as having found a middle ground on the matter of assessing minor fender benders on our roads. I hope we move toward enactment before the end of this year.
To discuss the other middle ground that I wondered about, I need to start with a disclaimer. I have done no formal training on the issue of homelessness. I understand broadly the issues affecting the homeless but what I am about to share is more me thinking aloud than prescribing a position.
While I was happy this week to see that the non-governmental organization heading the advocacy effort for the care and maintenance of the homeless had quarters, I was shocked to see the location chosen.
I thought any effort to house the homeless would wish to put them in more of a suburban environment, if not a totally rural one. I wondered how effective it would be to try to rehabilitate the homeless in a Bridgetown location where there is still easy access to hard drugs, houses or prostitution and other ‘temptations’. I thought activities such as farming, hiking, exercise and meditation may be built into programming and I wondered how they would be facilitated in an urban setting.
I also wondered about the supermarket business that is located in close vicinity of the proposed shelter. It is no secret that in most supermarkets in Barbados the staff is predominantly female. The hours of business will mean that they are traversing the area very early in the morning and quite late into the night. What has been put in place to make sure that the staff is sensitised and to ensure that there will be adequate levels of security in the area?
Perhaps my questions become irrelevant with further information about the project and its programming. While I continue to support access to safe housing for each and every citizen of the world, in the context of a small island, considerations must be given to all individuals who will be living, rehabilitating and working in close proximity.
I do not quite think we have reached a seamless middle ground on this issue. Perhaps with disclosure and engagement, the answers will be more obvious.
Marsha Hinds is the President of the National Organisation of Women.