Route taxi driv­ers need ur­gent care

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

DRIV­ING A route taxi is a highly stress­ful oc­cu­pa­tion. Many driv­ers don’t own the taxi. They are ac­count­able to an em­ployer who ex­pects them to bring in a whole heap of money each day. This means mak­ing as many trips as quickly as pos­si­ble and pack­ing in the pas­sen­gers. The ur­gency to make fast money is what ac­counts for much of the er­ratic be­hav­iour of route taxi driv­ers.

Ev­ery chance they get, route taxi driv­ers break the rules of the road. When we see them act­ing crazy, we tend to joke about it. We say, “Wat a way im a drive like mad man!” We don’t mean it lit­er­ally. It’s just that the taxi driver is be­hav­ing a lit­tle, or a lot, ir­ra­tionally. And, yes, the crazy taxi driv­ers are of­ten male. Fe­males usu­ally re­spect the rules of the road.

We don’t seem to re­alise that some of these crazy route taxi driv­ers are ac­tu­ally mad. Stock, star­ing! The things they do are clear ev­i­dence that they are not play­ing with a full deck. Take, for in­stance, re­fus­ing to wait their turn in a long line of traf­fic! Wait­ing is an oc­cu­pa­tional haz­ard. It’s a com­plete waste of time, as far as they are con­cerned.

DOWN THE WRONG SIDE

If a route taxi driver is caught in traf­fic, he sim­ply races down the wrong side of the road, hop­ing that no on­com­ing traf­fic will turn up. If an un­for­tu­nate ve­hi­cle tries to come down on its side of the road, it is forced to wait un­til the taxi driver man­ages to squeeze his way back into the line of traf­fic. If no­body is will­ing to let him in, he just rides the pave­ment on the other side of the road. And as soon as that nui­sance ve­hi­cle passes, the taxi driver races right back down the wrong side.

This kind of re­peat­edly ir­ra­tional be­hav­iour is an ob­vi­ous sign of mad­ness.

An­other crazy way in which many taxi driv­ers avoid long lines lead­ing up to traf­fic lights is to go into the right turn lane, which tends to be short. They have ab­so­lutely no in­ten­tion of turn­ing right. As soon as the right turn ar­row comes on, they slide to the left, ahead of the traf­fic wait­ing to go straight ahead.

It gets worse. I’ve seen a taxi driver move to the left from the right turn lane and across two lines of wait­ing traf­fic; and then make what would have been a left turn if he had been in the left turn lane to start with. In fact, it was all one long slide to the left! That’s pure lu­nacy.

COM­MON AS­SAULT

And as for break­ing red lights! That’s a com­mon as­sault. A red light does not mean stop. It all de­pends on how the taxi driver is feel­ing at the time. If he’s not in a big rush, he might decide to stop. But if he’s des­per­ately run­ning down a fare, too bad for the red light! Then am­ber means speed up. So what if the taxi driver doesn’t make it through the in­ter­sec­tion be­fore the light turns red? A nuh nut­ten! The only colour that most taxi driv­ers re­spect is green.

An­other dan­ger­ous habit of route taxi driv­ers is stop­ping any­where with­out any no­tice. This is not en­tirely their fault. I was sur­prised to read in the Road Traf­fic Act that it is il­le­gal for route taxis to use bus stops or sta­tions. This makes no sense. It would be much safer for pas­sen­gers to be able to get in and out of taxis at des­ig­nated stops. Now, it’s pure chaos.

The most alarm­ing thing I’ve seen a route taxi driver do is to make a U-turn on a pedes­trian cross­ing in Liguanea. That’s go­ing to the very depths of law­less­ness. A pedes­trian cross­ing ought to be a pro­tected space guar­an­tee­ing the safety of its users. No pedes­trian ex­pects to meet a taxi in the mid­dle of the cross­ing.

Then the me­dian next to this pedes­trian cross­ing has been re­cently dug down. This, ap­par­ently, is to widen the cross­ing and make it eas­ier for ve­hi­cles to make the U-turn. I am ap­peal­ing to the rel­e­vant gov­ern­ment agency to en­sure that the me­dian is fixed. Per­haps, a turn­stile will have to be in­stalled in the mid­dle of the cross­ing!

LONG-TERM STRESS

Many route taxi driv­ers need pro­fes­sional help to re­cover from long-term stress. But some of them don’t even know they are un­well. They’ve been op­er­at­ing un­der so much pres­sure for so long, they don’t re­alise that their be­hav­iour is ir­ra­tional. Break­ing rules has be­come nor­mal.

We can­not al­low this ill­ness to go untreated. Route taxi driv­ers pro­vide an es­sen­tial ser­vice. With­out them, com­muters would have a much harder time get­ting around. But they have to be much bet­ter reg­u­lated. The Trans­port Author­ity does of­fer one-day train­ing cour­ses through the HEART Trust for pub­lic pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cle driv­ers and con­duc­tors. These cour­ses should be manda­tory for route taxi driv­ers. But when would they find the time? That’s at such a pre­mium in this busi­ness.

Carolyn Cooper, PhD, is a spe­cial­ist on cul­ture and de­vel­op­ment. Email feed­back to col­[email protected]­erjm.com and [email protected]

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