Editorial

Traffic police: Lamentations not enough

Friday, May 24, 2019

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A police report that the driver of the minibus involved in Monday's fatal crash in Portland was recently warned for overloading the vehicle, emphasises the indiscipline and blatant disregard for the law that exists in the public transport sector.

The minibus, built to accommodate at most 15 passengers, was packed with 21 students from Titchfield and Port Antonio High schools. The driver and conductor took that number to 23.

Thirteen-year-old second form student at Titchfield High, Pranjal Jasti Kumar, did not survive when the bus plunged into a ravine after failing to negotiate a corner at Black Hill.

The other students, as well as the driver and conductor, were injured and taken to hospital. According to Titchfield High Principal Mr Richard Thompson, the students have suffered minor cuts, bruises, broken limbs, whiplash, and back injuries.

We hope that there will be no more fatalities from this crash and that the injured will recover fully.

At the same time, we hope that the driver and, by extension, the conductor, will be made to feel the full weight of the law. For overcrowding the bus in that manner speaks to recklessness that ought not to be tolerated.

We have not yet been informed, with surety, about the speed at which the bus was travelling when the crash occurred, therefore we will reserve comment on that.

What we can say, though, is that these types of incidents occur far too often for the authorities to merely wring their hands, issue strong statements of condemnation; and offer, sympathy to the victims.

Something must be done, within the ambit of the law, to discourage the lawless behaviour displayed on the streets daily, especially by bus and taxi drivers, as well as motorcyclists.

The police in Portland who spoke to the media about the behaviour of the driver in Monday's crash, need to explain why he was allowed to keep on transporting people after he was repeatedly sanctioned for overcrowding his bus.

In that regard, the police failed in their sworn duty to protect Jamaicans. The fact that the victims are children makes the failure even worse, especially when we hear one senior policeman telling journalists that the operators of public transportation pack students in their vehicles “like sardines” and that “if they don't lap up they won't get to school or reach home in the evenings”.

That is a most despicable admission of failure to enforce the law. It also tells us that the police see no harm in the deviant demand by transport operators that students — mostly teenage boys and girls with raging hormones — sit in each other's laps in buses and taxis.

We have repeatedly made calls in this space for a rural school bus system, and we recall that in September 2017 a pilot was rolled out in Portland, taking students from four communities to Buff Bay Primary School.

At the time, the then Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid said that the service would target students on the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) and that students from 91 primary and secondary schools in eight parishes across the island would benefit from the pilot in the first phase.

There needs to be a review of how well that is working. At the same time, the police need to enforce the law instead of lamenting after each tragedy.


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