I applaud the efforts of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force in attempting to improve the public transportation system. A number of new signs can be seen in and close to Kingstown, in part to enable a greater flow of traffic in some areas, such as areas where “keep clear” signs are seen. This appears as a deliberate attempt to improve the traffic situation, which is commendable. However, many omnibus operators seem to be above the law and the hands of the police and even some of the van drivers seem tied in this regard.
I specifically would like to zoom in on the omnibus operators on the windward side of the island, particularly those operating between Kingstown and Diamond. Many of the drivers seem to be simply holding the steering wheel, while the conductors do the driving using a remote control that is always seen in their hand. I thought the remote was to only control the music but I was wrong as I have numerous experiences travelling publicly.
Conductors do the hand signals which is often seen in Back Street, Kingstown and they approach the crossing close to the double line as they say “give me a squeeze in dey” while telling the drivers to pull over. This they do even without any form of possible clearance. Other times they would be heard telling the driver, “Buss ah second” meaning shift gear or “go through dey”, meaning take a detour because the main thoroughfare has too much traffic. These conductors also serve as legal eyes as they would often tell the drivers, “No police in the area. Turn here”. These areas of law-breaking include coming out of Windward Bus Terminal, at Peace Memorial Hall, the main road below Girls High School and in the main road at the gap leading to the Villa Campus of the Community College.
Though they can more than payback for themselves, through fines of omnibuses, the use of public cameras may be too expensive for the government to afford to monitor these lawbreakers who simply don’t care enough about human life. I am therefore proposing a solution. Almost every member of the travelling public is the owner of a smartphone. Many have data plans and even more have Wi-Fi at home. All these phones are equipped with video recording capabilities and many of us in the travelling public care about life and traffic safety.
Here are my suggestions, which can surely be improved upon: The police need to provide and advertise a couple of WhatsApp numbers to which the public can send videos. Provide a simple reward system, maybe $5 for each video of reckless driving or instances of law-breaking. Fines imposed on these drivers can cover this cost. No driver should be on the road with over three fines that have not be paid and a driver who reaches 10 fines should have his license suspended for a six-month period. Many of us in the public are willing and ready to help to curb the total reckless behaviour taking place publicly on our roads, primarily by some omnibus operators.
Why in this day and age do we still have conductors standing over passengers or sitting opposite a passenger with legs between a passenger’s? In an emergency, a passenger is a risk for a head-on collision with the conductor. Is this the best we can do for traffic safety? How much do we really care about the safety of the travelling public? Can we have the law amended to reduce the omnibus passengers by one so that the conductor must occupy a seated position? The last omnibus I travelled with last Thursday had eight students on the back seat. I almost thought it was cargo as the conductor insisted that they “small up” themselves. Photos like those can be forwarded to the police via WhatsApp with an image of the omnibus.
It’s time for more seriousness about traffic safety in action, and if as a police force you are already stretched to the limit, let us help by providing video footage of these incidents. The safety of the travelling public should not be taken for granted and you simply can’t do it alone with the current resources at your disposal.
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