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Road safety, our responsibility

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08.Jan.10

THE TRAGIC vehicular accident on the new Argyle by-pass road raises for the umpteenth time questions about the enforcement of regulations for public transportation vehicles.

We moan and groan about the load, lewd music in minivans, the breakneck speed at which they operate, and the overcrowding, but sometimes, by our own actions, we, the traveling public, encourage and reward reckless behaviour among minivan operators.{{more}}

It seems that a two-pronged approach is needed if we are to improve safety and the service provided to commuters.

Firstly, the traveling public needs to insist very vocally on better service and safer practices, and if a commuter does not get them, he or she should ask to be let off that van and never travel again with that particular service provider.

Passengers also need to be more supportive of the police in their efforts to promote road safety. Very often, when vans are pulled over and ticketed by the police for unsafe and illegal practices, the police are the recipients of abuse, not from the van drivers, but the passengers themselves, whose very lives the law officers are trying to protect.

Just Wednesday this week, a minivan filled with passengers was pulled off the road as in the opinion of the police officer, the tires were not road-worthy. Some passengers were heard to be grumbling that the police officer should allow the van driver to go on his way as whatever was wrong could be fixed later.

One would hardly think that less than a week after the Argyle tragedy this would be the response from minivan passengers. We are sometimes in such a hurry to get to our destinations that we close our eyes to the danger in which we place ourselves. We need to wake up and shoulder the responsibility for own safety.

But this is not to absolve the Government of their responsibility to us, the traveling public. It was good to learn this week of the re-establishment of the Transport Board and their stated intention to draft regulations for the local transportation system.

Our information is that the Board will consider bus routes, the location of bus stops, overcrowding, hours of service, congestion at the bus terminals, and issues relating to safety of passengers and conduct on the road of mini-bus operators.

In their deliberations, the Transport Board should also look at prohibiting modifications to minivans which may pose a danger to the safety of passengers. The seats at the back of the vans are often raised to accommodate large speakers, which force passengers sitting the rear of the vans to have to crouch if their heads are not to touch the roof of the vehicle. Should that vehicle be involved in an accident, those passengers in the back of the vehicle are placed at serious risk for head and neck injuries.

Inspector Kenneth John of the Traffic Department this week also stated the intention of his department to increase their vigilance. Hopefully, these efforts, coupled with the heightened awareness among the public, will result in the regulations becoming law; laws which will be enforced by the police.

Despite initial resistance, operators of public transportation vehicles will comply with regulations once they realize that the police are serious about enforcement. Look at how much fuss was made about removing graphics from the windshields of vehicles a few years ago. Now today, everyone complies; it is no longer an issue.

Let some good come out of the Argyle by-pass road tragedy. Let us get on with it.

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