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Police pushing to reduce minibus passenger capacity

Police pushing to reduce minibus passenger capacity

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The Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVPF) Traffic Department intends to ask the Government to reduce the number of passengers that omnibuses operating here are licensed to carry.

This is to ensure that the conductor is seated at all times, says traffic branch head, Superintendent of Police Kenneth John.

While speaking at a meeting between police officers and omnibus conductors on January 19 at the Haddon Hotel,{{more}} John cited the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Chapter 483, Section 42-49.

He referred to three fatal road accidents last year, two of which involved children travelling in omnibuses and this year’s call by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves for police to crack down on traffic laws.

The meeting saw a lively and productive exchange between the police officers and omnibus conductors and operators.

Sergeant Henry Providence said the police recognize that a number of persons were not up to date as to what is required of them on the road.

“Conductors were simply going on a bus thinking it is just to pick up the fare and that was mainly their role and responsibility,” Providence said.

Quoting the law, the officers reminded conductors that they should not permit more passengers to be carried in their minivan than it is licensed to carry.

President of the Omnibus Association Anthony “Code Red” Bacchus, however, said his interpretation of the law was different.

“A bus is licensed to carry 18 passengers. The conductor and the driver are not included as passengers. So, that gives the driver and conductor permission to stand up,” Bacchus said.

“Eighteen fare paying passengers,” another person commented, while drivers and conductors agreed with Bacchus.

However, John rebutted “Everyone should be seated in the motor vehicle, so that is why now under the new Traffic Act, we are asking now that these vans that are normally licensed for 18 passengers, they would be licensed to carry 17 and the conductor would get a proper seat.”

Bacchus quieted his members who raised questions about this law, stating that the minibus association had proposed that a seat be given up and the fare be raised to EC$2.

Additionally, officers observed that conductors allow schoolchildren to sit anywhere in the bus, and these children sit at the windows, fully opening them.

“In case there’s an incident or accident, these children are vulnerable to serious injuries and you’ve seen that in 2015.”

The police urged conductors to ensure that older persons sit at the windows, unless there are only children seated in van, in which case they should close the windows.

“Your duty is not to just take up money and pack the van,” said John.

The law also states that if a minivan is carrying more passengers than it is licensed to carry, the conductor, or in his absence, the driver, will be asked to eject the excess passengers.

On refusal to do this, “any police officer may arrest such driver or conductor, as he may deem necessary to prevent the vehicle from proceeding on its journey with such excess passengers, except if the passengers are under the age of 10.

“Provided that for the purpose of computing the number of passengers in a motor omnibus, two children under the age of ten years shall be reckoned as one person and infants in arms shall not be reckoned at all,” cited the officer.

Also, if 36 children under the age of 10 were in a minivan, the law would count them as 18 passengers.

The law further states that conductors must possess a permit, which commences on the day it is granted and expires on December 31 every year. Without this permit, they are not authorized to act nor be hired as conductors.

John said his department is moving to have conductors vetted to ensure that when applying for the EC$10 permit, they are above the age of 17 and are physically and mentally fit, as required by law.

The informative meeting also educated the conductors about laws which state that they must not use a horn or other instruments to call passengers nor make or use any abusive language or gestures towards passengers.

According to the law, “any person who contravenes or fails to comply to any of the provisions of these regulations is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not less than $100 and not more $1,500 and to imprisonment for 21 days.”

Providence said the meeting was called because the police recognized that there is a need to educate the conductors, owners and operators.

Officers hope that the meeting would result in positive changes. (AS)

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