Overloaded, top-heavy, too fast, poorly maintained
It is becoming a weekly news story: “Bus driver loses control, (insert number) Injured.” This week’s accident is reported in Barbados Today as 13 injured in bus accident in St. George. Oh… wait… that was last week’s accident at Taitts Road with Cenetta Bennett driving. The driver in this week’s accident at Rowans Road is ‘R. Headley’: 13 hurt in bus accident.
Perhaps the newspapers should reserve a space on the front page of the Saturday edition each week to feature a photo of the latest bus on its side while emergency personnel lift casualties from the wreck. Even the tourists write with horror about taking the bus. The latest TripAdvisor story on Barbados buses asks What drugs are the Barbados bus drivers on?
It is certainly true that the speed and recklessness of many drivers play major parts in the bus disasters – but there are other factors that the government doesn’t want to see or talk about.
Last week’s disaster will undoubtedly be blamed upon the driver, Cenetta Bennett, who reportedly “maneouvered to avoid a collision with another vehicle and struck a kerb.” This week, according to the CBC, ‘R. Headley’ “lost control of the bus and hit a guard wall“ so he will be blamed too.
It’s always so easy to blame the driver because then we don’t have to consider the fact that our buses are badly designed, difficult to control and are far too unstable for a vehicle transporting our loved ones. And don’t get us started on poor maintenance and lack of safety inspections.
As we’ve said before, “The minibuses are involved in way too many tip-overs, but even when they stay on their wheels they sway badly and the drivers often struggle to maintain control. You see it happening! How often have you seen minibuses veer over the road center? It’s an everyday happening and so common that drivers know to keep an eye on an oncoming minibus and move over a little bit just in case something happens.
How many minibus accidents are caused by the poor handling, even if the bus doesn’t tip over? I’d bet there are plenty. Yes, speed and recklessness are factors as is poor maintenance – but speed and maintenance alone cannot account for the slaughter. There is something wrong with the buses.” (from BFP’s Top-Heavy death traps: 18 casualties as another minibus overturns – “5 critical, 4 severe”)
UK visitors have about double the chance of being killed or injured in a vehicle accident in Barbados as they do back home, and this is known and discussed on practically every online forum about holidaying in Barbados.
Alas, we have no money to purchase newer buses, but something has to be done! A reasonable plan might be the following…
- Implement extensive mechanical inspections and repairs, with the focus upon safety related items: brakes, steering, tyres, suspension, mirrors, signals, horns.
- Implement extensive driver education.
- Enforce standards internally and by police. Engage the drivers and mechanics unions. Make them own their responsibility.
- Make a few examples of poor mechanics and reckless drivers. Sack them and make a big show.