Better registration of minibus owners and drivers is needed
Stabroek News
July 9, 2001

Dear Editor,
Within recent times there has evolved the phenomenon of the fleet footed minibus drivers and the amnesiac owners, whose amnesia only surfaces when they are required to recall the personal particulars of the athletic operators of their vehicles.

Perhaps this problem might have been closer to being solved, had the advice which was offered by one of your letter writers in your issue of May 13, 1997 under the heading 'Hit and run minibus in name of overseas owner', been adopted by the authorities.

The proposal is for a process for the registration of all owners, as well as their drivers and conductors, in a comprehensive data base, which would be shared by the police, the tax authorities and the insurance companies.

No doubt, this would be a simple method whereby the tax people would be able to keep track of the revenue entitlements of the government in terms of duties, capital gains and income tax as well as transfer fees.

Such a system would also be a most valuable tool in the hands of the police for the following purposes:

a) Easily validating the documents held by persons purporting to be properly licensed bus drivers, regardless of the place in Guyana where such documents were supposedly issued.

b) Verification from records held by the police themselves, of the route and crew registration of these vehicles, along with particulars of their status e.g. drivers' past records and outstanding legal proceedings in which they might be involved.

The present registration system of both vehicles and drivers is riddled with abuses. For instance: the police do not seem to have a continuous master index of all the persons whom they have certified as being competent to drive.

Thus, a person pushes a piece of paper under the nose of a police rank in George-town which alleges that he was issued with the revenue licence at a certain location. The document says nothing about the existence of a certificate of competence, which is the germane issue. The police have to rely on the integrity of the system which is operated by the licence revenue office, a practice which has its pitfalls. The police should independently maintain an index of all certificates of competence to drive which they issue, and make it easily accessible from all of their divisional headquarters. The record of each driver should be automatically updated as events in which he or she is involved, unfold.

The Licence Revenue Office of the Guyana Revenue Authority can continue to perform the revenue collection function, updating the record electronically.

Minibuses are famous also for the speed with which they are able to change the zones in which they operate at the first hint of trouble.

Henceforth, such changes should require compulsory registration, not only with the police traffic headquarters, but also at the police divisional headquarters where the new zone begins as well as where it ends. Failure by any bus owner to personally cause the particulars of the crew of his vehicle as well as its authorised route to be registered by the requisite police authorities, should be made subject to the severest penalties.

New regulations should also be introduced in order to aid in the expeditious disposal of minor traffic offences. Perhaps the time is now ripe for the establishment of lay magistrates' court as well as evening court sessions. These should prove to be time saving innovations.

The fundamental problem affecting traffic control does not hinge upon an absence or shortage of comprehensive legal provisions. The fly in the ointment seems to be in the area of enforcement.

The effectiveness of the enforcement effort is also hampered by the very high degree of corruption and corruptibility which exists. Additionally, the lack of contemporary responses to current realities in the traffic sector, as well as a wholly unimaginative deployment of its human resources, does nothing to enhance effectiveness in the performance of the traffic management function.

For instance, the traffic department virtually shuts down between 16-18 hours daily. On Sundays and holidays it is supposedly manned by a skeleton staff. More often than not however, only the skeleton is evident.

Mobile patrols, those in cars and on motorcycles, seem to prefer to concentrate their efforts in a strictly defined area. This results in major portions of the city and its environs not being covered, resulting in unrestrained traffic mayhem.

The traffic department, with a more focused marketing package, would be able to attract many part-time wardens. Retired, but active persons, as well as employed persons of good repute, could be recruited to assist with control duties, in specified areas, during specified periods, in an effort to regain control of a situation which has reduced the human being to the status of a self-endangering species.

Yours faithfully,
Clarence R Evans

Editor's note:
As we pointed out in connection with the hit and run fatal accident in Carifesta avenue owners are under a legal duty to provide the police with information about drivers. The civil law will also presume that the driver was their employee or agent in the absence of evidence to the contrary.