On Wednesday morning the Basseterre community was rudely awakened by the report that there was a head-on collision of two passenger vehicles and a lot of people had died.
However, those who rushed to the scene of the accident at West Farm, sighed with relief to find that though the mishap was tragic and a lot of people were injured, nobody had died. A survey of the damage to the vehicles involved caused some people to give the Almighty thanks that the terrible, resounding impact notwithstanding, no lives were sacrificed to this piece of recklessness.
We can only imagine the grief and pain of the families of the two women who seemed to have been most seriously injured. One was crossing the road from her home to enter the waiting bus when she was cruelly knocked down by an oncoming bus which slammed into the parked vehicle.
The other was actually seated beside the driver of the parked vehicle and endured the ordeal of being cut from the wreckage. God’s mercy saved her from instant death and her family from unexpected grief.
It is a wonder that such incidents do not happen daily. The ferocity with which the bus drivers manage the road is frightening. It is hard to believe that the buses which speed through the countryside are not transporting sheep, cattle and hogs.
Many commuters tell horrible tales of the close calls which they experience on the road in the care of some bus drivers, when the buses are hurtling along the narrow roads of the island.
Sometimes these hapless passengers scream and admonish the bus drivers to be careful and drive at least within the speed limit. The answer which they usually get is “Get out of the bus if you don’t like how ah drive.”
The poor passengers have very little choice but to endure the ordeal, some on a daily basis, twice a day as they travel to and from.
When I used to travel by bus, I had many ugly experiences. On more than one occasion, I would politely request of the speeding driver to put me off. Once I was put off at Molineux Gate and caught another bus only to have to request again to put me off at Cayon. On another occasion the bus I was in got into a race with another bus on the Keys Road.
My bus was behind and my driver was determined to catch up and pass. As he bent over the wheel and pressed the accelerator for the final desperate dash, I saw the Keys Bend just ahead. I told him I wanted to crap in the canefield. He had to stop and let me out and I walked through Keys till a friend in a private car gave me a lift.
Many of these bus drivers are hooligans who do not know how to conduct themselves on the road or how to have some consideration for the passengers in their care. Indeed I don’t think they realize that they should care for their passengers.
These insensitive bus drivers take great pride in their reckless driving. They boast openly of being the greatest on the road. They enjoy the notoriety of narrowly escaping deadly accidents. Some of them have even killed people on the road, Human lives in general and the lives of their passengers in particular mean nothing to them while they hurry after the thrill of flying through the Village at seventy miles per hour sometimes.
The road situation helps to promote and encourage the road hooliganism which characterizes the passenger bus system of St. Kitts. The system consists of numerous small buses competing for the commuter business. All day there is stiff competition between the bus drivers as they speed and try to overtake each other to reach the terminals and capture a bus load of passengers.
Passengers caught up in this fury suffer keen discomfort as they face the dangerous threats of collisions on their way home or to work.
Some steps should be taken to change the nature of the transport service so that the passengers who do not own motor-cars can travel in comfort without fear for their lives.
The little busses should be banned. The government should step into the transportation industry and reorganize it to achieve greater efficiency, comfort and safety for the hundreds of daily commuters.
A transport corporation should be established and the present small buses should be decommissioned, and replaced by larger buses which can seat many passengers comfortably.
The present bus owners and drivers may be invited to share in this enterprise and a system of orderly movement of buses should be organized in the place of the present chaotic and dangerous situation.
Proper bus stops should be located around the island to end the present practice of stopping haphazardly where a passenger happens to be standing.
These large buses will of course observe the speed limit on the country road and give their passengers the relaxed and enjoyable ride which they deserve for their money.
It is a habit in this country to act in panic only when a dangerous event occurs. A very dangerous event almost occurred on Wednesday when two bus-loads of people almost met a tragic end. I thank God that the ultimate danger was averted and I hope that the bus situation will be rectified before the next tragedy.