Bus drivers must be subject to regulations appropriate to mass transit systems

Dear Editor,

Your October 18, 2007 editorial made reference to measures by the Home Affairs Minister to address the irresponsible driving habits of bus and taxi operators. These include requiring driving experience of at least two years, additional driving tests, implementing increased fines and traffic ticketing. These measures do not adequately address the issue which must be seen in the context of Public Safety.

Driving habits of operators need to be addressed by comprehensive and holistic legislative measures. Bus and taxi operators have similar responsibilities for the travelling public as operators of other mass transportation systems such as air and train. The difference is one of scale. Therefore, there should be no difference in the regulations that apply to all of these carriers.

The convention worldwide is for mass transit operators to be subject to random drug tests. They are not permitted to operate their craft or engines while inebriated, or for more than a specified length of time to address fatigue.

And they are required to take refresher courses periodically. Further, the maintenance of aircraft and train engines are well regulated.

While most of these measures are straightforward, the one that I find very effective is the periodic safety courses. In the USA, Insurance Companies give drivers an option of reducing insurance rates by taking a 3-hour safety course every three years. These companies found that motorists who took the course had fewer accidents than others thus justifying the reduction in rates. Courses, run by Private Companies, at a cost to those taking them, deal with sound and safe driving habits and illustrate very vividly the consequences of unsafe driving practices. Very often it is ignorance which causes drivers to speed. For example, in Guyana, bus drivers are under the false impression that speed and aggressive driving increase their earnings potential. Such driving increases their costs. Vehicles are built to maximize their performance at a specified rate of travel.

Exceeding this rate decreases performance and increases costs. Even more important, speeding followed by braking is very costly since the energy used to bring the vehicle to the level of speed is cancelled by the braking action. When operators understand the economics of speeding, they would realize that it is in their own self interest to drive within legal limits.

As part of this comprehensive legislation covering public safety issues, I would also strongly recommend to the Minister that the ownership of vicious dogs be addressed. The recent attack on a jogger by pit bulls is a case in point. As a minimum, legislation should be in place to have these dogs licensed, properly vaccinated against bite-transferred diseases, their owners covered by substantial liability insurance and appropriately restrained when in public. I have personally observed another tragedy waiting to happen as owners walk their pit bulls and rottweilers among the public users of the seawall in the Conversation Tree area without properly muzzling their animals.

Measures to stop the carnage on our roads caused mainly by poor driving habits of bus and taxi operators will only be adequately addressed when such transportation is seen as no different from other mass transit systems and similar regulations are applied.

Yours faithfully,

Louis Holder

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