Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pure Slackness And Too Much Crying Over Spilt Milk

One of my constant criticisms of things Barbadian is of an underlying complacency. If the country had reach the pinnacle of richness we would be thinking that we are looking at the effects of degeneracy. That the country has not reached the pinnacle of richness still means that we are looking at the effects of degeneracy. Why am I harping on complacency again? The Nation reported this week the case of Dexter Smith (pictured, courtesy of the Nation), a route taxi (ZR) driver, 'whose reckless driving left 14 ZR passengers injured in an accident on Sunday admitted he knew he was driving illegally since his driver's licence had been suspended.' He has 30 traffic convictions and has had his licence suspended on four occasions.

Since that report one has heard so many "How can that be?" questions. The answer is simple "You like it so," or as I often get told "That's how it is." Now the crying over spilt milk, and the milk is mixed with the pain of the injured. Look at what milk Dexter Smith spilt:
  • he had no insurance;
  • he drove without due care and attention;
  • he drove dangerously;
  • he drove without reasonable consideration;
  • he passed beyond the stop line, all on Sunday.
Here is how the 'system' reacted. Magistrate Christopher Birch told him, "You represent the most dangerous fringe in the culture of the public service vehicle industry. It isn't the majority. You represent that one per cent that couldn't care. You drive sometimes intoxicated; you overload the vehicle; you drive in and out as if you own the road. This same magistrate had suspended Smith's licence on two of the four occasions. In the end, Magistrate Birch jailed Smith for a year for driving while his licence had been suspended and suspended that licence for a further two years.

We know that the 'system' has allowed all of this and is culpable; maybe no individual is really at fault, but this happens only because it is very easy to evade all the rules and regulations, that people believe Bajans love to follow. I've said before, that rules and regulations and laws are not very often followed in Barbados. People talk about Jamaica as 'lawless', and it is; but so too is Barbados. Plenty lawless.

Just my own experience in 15 minutes of driving yesterday afternoon: the bus that stopped in the middle of the highway, just after it passed the bus stop layby, so that a passenger could run to get on. Traffic came to a screeching halt. No problem, man. A driver tali gating me so closely it seemed that he was in my back seat. When I braked he flipped me the finger. No problem, man, we can die together. The same driver then switched from outside lane and swerved over two lanes to make the turn I presume that he had been told to over the cell phone he had to his ear. I don't panic easily on the road, but I grew up driving in Hyde Park Corner. Bajans cannot handle this kind of maniacal activity.

Just think about how a man with a suspended licence gets a job as a driver of a public service vehicle. Did he pay off someone? Did someone turn a blind eye or not check? The same questions apply when looking at his lack of insurance. Remember, this is the country where you can just go and get number plates knocked up where you buy your cou-cou: no official licensing authority need issue them. Duh!

Smith was not the owner of the taxi. But who is and why is he or she not also in front of the magistrate? Why are the offending owners not sanctioned and the vehicles seized and taken off the road? I'm no investigative journalist but things like this happen because some one's interests need to be protected. Politicians and government officials have to be involved somewhere, as the setters and keepers (or clearly not) of the rules. Private industry too is culpable. Obviously, those who are ZR operators. But what are insurance companies doing to ensure that drivers have valid licences or that anyone without a valid license will find it hard to drive a car.

If the 'system' has parts that work, then there will be civil and criminal cases to come from the injured.

What will happen next? Taking the cue from Crop Over, will it be "Some thing's happening" or will it be "We looking at it"? Oh, the poison we have to pick!


Sargeant said...

I agree with you that the owner(s) of these vehicles should be called to account when these incidents arise. The owners’ of the vehicle are the one who provided him with the means to injure other people on the road. In Canada owners of bars and restaurants as well as private individuals who entertain people are routinely charged if their patrons or guests over imbibe on alcohol and are then involved in accidents.

In Barbados some of these vehicles are owned by the well connected and when powerful interests are involved nothing is done to upset the applecart

Dennis Jones said...

Sargeant,I hear you and I also hear again and echo of 'cake and eat it too' and the would-should distance. All of this is catching up with Barbados.