Tuesday, April 16, 2024

EDITORIAL: Ball in drivers’ courts


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Culture: The attitudes and behaviours characteristic of a particular social group.

For many years, but over the last two decades in particular, Barbadians across the board have been complaining about the minibus or ZR culture, especially with reference to its negative impact on our schoolchildren and how many of them have taken these new “norms” into various aspects of life as they age.

Having watched this culture grow for almost a quarter century it still appears that one fact has managed to elude those in authority – many of those who now operate our route taxis and minibuses are themselves products of this culture.

They may be 25, 30, 35 or 40 years old, but many of them would have been schooled morally

on our streets in an atmosphere characterised by many of the sick features we somehow feel more comfortable not talking about.

If we consider the rise of the ZR culture over this period, however, we should not have been surprised by the complaints of some of these same operators earlier this week and their disclosure that they are contemplating legal action against the Crown because the fines imposed on them by magistrates are too stiff.

It’s the kind of thinking that ought to provide jokes galore for the comedians in our midst.

One driver showed a receipt for the payment of $1 100 in forthwith fines in one day to support his argument that the magistrates were being too harsh. Another complained he had paid the court $11 200 in fines over a ten-month period and could no longer afford it.

We have some advice for these operators, which we are certain will solve their problem immediately and without further cost: Stop breaking the law! It’s that easy.

We don’t doubt that some operators are well intentioned when they stop other than at a bus stop to pick up an old lady; or in a corner during the rain for a woman travelling with her infant child; or other than at a bus stop for the old man with a cane – but if you do and are caught you simply live with the consequences. You gambled and lost – accept it.

All over the world it rains (and snows), women travel with babies, old men with canes need help and little old ladies wish for a knight in shining armour, but these are not treated as excuses for creating havoc on the streets. We are also sure that our police officers would be less inclined to ticket operators if their infractions were the exception rather than the rule.

Instead, these operators have contributed in large measure to a culture of rule breaking. So commuters leave home or their place of work and stop at the nearest junction to await the “van” – because the driver will stop. Commuters stroll leisurely down the gap because ZR operators stop at the entrance to each so the conductor can shout to everyone in the distance to see if they want a $2 ride.

These drivers need to be told that if they respected the law and stuck to stopping only at bus stops their passengers would not expect to be let off anywhere else and prospective passengers would wait at bus stops; if they did not drive off route commuters would not wait for them off route; if they did not play loud music passengers would not board expecting loud music.

And just in case these operators missed the point, let’s restate it: Your problem is not with the police, magistrate, court, or fines, but with yourselves.

The solution is in your hands and its implementation can be as immediate and life altering as a heart attack.


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