gavelRecently the Jamaican Parliament has been looking over a revised set of traffic laws. This was done due in no small part to the embarrassing fact that every few years the State does a blanket ticket amnesty which raised facts such as individuals having hundreds of unpaid traffic tickets.

This new Bill has also been aimed at what seems to be a national scourge, the taxi driver, who is the most visible and blatant abuser of the road codes. However, during this, some nasty words have been thrown and nasty (classist) sentiments have come to the fore, such as calling them ‘taxi germ’ and hoping that those who protested (and inconvenienced many) are arrested.

These comments, as nasty, ugly, and classist as they may be, underline something which will always be the bane of the average Jamaican citizen — the fact that we both lack empathy and are a bunch of hypocrites. A lack of empathy because it is clear that the fines attached to the breaches are massive and would literally be eating into the daily bread which the taxi driver seeks to earn (the knock-on effects are then felt by the family and dependents), lacking empathy because it is common knowledge that some police have a merry time issuing unwarranted tickets to drivers (particularly taxi drivers) in order to eat a food.

However, the lack of empathy, while maddening, pales in comparison to the rank hypocrisy which seems to be emanating from certain sectors of society. Hypocrisy because these people would have you believe that the taxis are the be all and end all of the issue, while at the same time refusing to look at drivers of private motor vehicles who routinely flout the road code and also feel that they should not pay the price.

If we are to believe these people, all the bad drivers who refuse to pay tickets only do so when there is an amnesty. That is a barefaced lie, for while the taxis are blatant and odious, the private driver is just as bad. If we are to look at road accidents involving pedestrians, for example, I am positive that we would find a 60/40 split (which could go either way) showing that both are almost equally culpable for these accidents.

These people would have you believe that it is solely the taxi driver who uses the road as if they are the only ones on it, but if that is the case then why do we then second guess the blaring police siren behind us? Could it be that it is because that set of road users is also notorious for regularly flouting the road code? Or is it that the taxis are the only PPVs which flout the rules? Again, we know that is false because JUTC, on a yearly basis, is shelling out hundreds of millions in compensation to passengers and other victims of bad driving on their part.

On any given day, the average person can count on one hand the number of motor vehicles that obey the road code. Our roads are the wild, wild west and damn near every user is the problem. If tomorrow the taxi drivers start driving like angels that still leaves the thousands of individuals who just straight up bought their licence and only know gas and brake. Are they not a major part of the problem? How we speak and who we choose to single out say a lot about us, and persons using disparaging remarks and singling out this one group (odious though they may be) says a lot about those persons.

They are not nice people, they are, for the most part, persons who when they get stopped for not using an indicator and get ticketed start bawling about discretion. They have no heart, they only think of themselves and their immediate family and it should come as no surprise that they are, by and large, the same persons who love to call for draconian measures to tackle violence while not addressing the root cause. These people, for the most part, want justice meted out to others, but never upon themselves and they must be called out.

Either everyone is accountable, either all bad drivers are germs, or none are. One first step in ensuring everyone is accountable would be to get the traffic cameras up and running, but I think we all know why they still are not being utilised. Another way to ensure accountability would be to purge the police force of taxis, that is, have any and all officers who own a taxi relinquish them or be fired. After all, it is common knowledge by all who use taxis that the biggest flouters of the code are under the protection of the police. Yet another way to hold everyone accountable is to ensure that no state licensing renewals are made for drivers who have outstanding tickets (an easy solution but one which won’t happen for reasons we all know but dare not say).

Either the law is applied evenly, and all are scorned, such as the pedestrian who believes that they have the right to cross the road like a goat, or we accept the anarchy in which we live. We have had far too much pontificating and holier than thou individuals. It’s time we accept that in the case of the indiscipline on the roads (and frankly in many more areas) the vast majority have no time for the rules. Until all are held accountable then yes, the taxis will continue to drive badly and they will continue to protest (rightly so) when they see that they are to be the sole group which must bend.

Justice for all or justice for none – that is a basic and simple premise which most of those lambasting the drivers don’t get. They are of the opinion that justice should be meted out to others and discretion should only be paid to them. That view of the world, that warped ultimate outcome of individualism, racism and classism must not be tolerated and we must not listen to those who say, ‘we are simply here to defend anarchy’.

Justice for all or justice for none – that is all we demand, and if we can’t have that, then at least have the decency and balls to pass legislation to reflect what seems to be the growing wish for a police state set along class lines.




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