When was the last time you rode in a public van? Was it enjoyable? I have a strong suspicion that the only people who enjoy riding in vans are school children and teenagers. Every time I ride in a minibus I fear for my life. I wish I were exaggerating, but I really do find the entire experience alarming.
We are all aware that St Vincent has a “van culture”. For us vans are not simple public transportation, it is a way of life. We allow our minibuses to have elaborate graphic designs on the vehicle body, combined with custom finishing, tyres with rims and enhanced speakers. I have always been an advocate for individuality, but this is one instance when I dislike it.
I recall a time I rode in a van and the music was so loud my ears were ringing. The conductor couldn’t even hear me when I asked the van to stop at my gap. The music was so loud the bus was shaking and I had temporary hearing-loss. I wish the loud music were my only complaint, but my biggest grievance of all is the reckless driving.
Van drivers are a menace to regular drivers. They often cut off other drivers and “overtake” them for sport. As a passenger, who has no control over the speed or direction, the experience is frightening. Each time this happens (which is every time I catch a van), I try to hold on and pray for safe passage. I might sound dramatic, but the experience really is uncomfortable. St Vincent has narrow roads with blind corners and many cliffs. This presents a myriad of ways a vehicle can crash and burn, and while riding in that vehicle my mind imagines every possible way we could all crash and burn.
Perhaps driving a van is monotonous and the drivers need excitement, but please, ah beg, not at the expense of my life. So many times, a driver decides to take a sharp turn and some heavy passenger falls on me, the experience is not very pleasant. Is it too much to ask that I sit comfortably while I’m on my way to town? At the very least, I don’t want to bruise my legs anymore, or suffer from tinnitus (ringing in the ears). I have at least one scar on my leg because I was getting out of a van and the driver drove off too quickly resulting in my scraping my leg on the protruding metal seat frame.
We need better regulation of drivers if we want this situation to get better. I feel like an old foot complaining about these things, but it really needs to stop. A life lost to reckless driving is especially heart-wrenching, because it is preventable. As a passenger, I can’t directly control my own safety, so it is up to us to demand better driving practices. We can only bear what we choose to tolerate.