Sun | Aug 25, 2019

Make Ja safer without dangerous taxi drivers

Published:Saturday | July 20, 2019 | 12:06 AM
Members of Time out for Jesus Worldwide Ministries protesting along Hope Road, St Andrew, adjacent to the Police Officers’ Club, against rape, abductions, the mistreatment of schoolchildren, and the reckless use of the road by bus and taxi operators.

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Taking a taxi in contemporary Jamaica is akin to attempting suicide. A sigh of relief is often audibly excreted by passengers upon arrival at their destinations unscathed. Passengers usually rush to call (or Whats app) their loved ones to express the happy news. ”Me reach home safe”. An equal sigh can be heard on the other end – “Ok, good to know … . me can go sleep now.”

This exchange is not just out of simple courtesy, like in the old days, but of grave necessity. In fact, if a family member or friend calls and doesn’t get through to the traveller, the next, almost automatic move is to call the police. This is so because the likelihood of travellers (especially females) to be robbed, kidnapped, raped or killed is highly likely. Thus, once you step into a taxi in 21st-century Jamaica, you are wittingly or unwittingly putting your life and property at risk.

Whether you take taxis intermittently (due to your car being in the garage/ logistical issues, etc) or you are a frequent user, you need to develop the skills of James Bond. To begin, you should only choose taxis with red plates, be aware of your surrounding, have your cell phone handy, make sure you know the driver, ensure, there is a large picture of the driver on display in the vehicle, take a picture of the licence plate and driver pic and send it to loved ones if possible. Wow! What a heap a ting fi memba jus fi tek a taxi?

One has to operate like a full time security professional when taking a taxi in Jamaica. This additional stress and anxiety must be costing the country millions, if not billions, of dollars in healthcare due to elevated blood pressure, not to mention accelerated heartbeat out of genuine fear.

The truth is, not all drivers are criminal-minded, but to decide who might be and who might not can seem like a game of Russian roulette with your life and property. So how do you choose? That’s the million-dollar question. I recommend that the government institute a taxi system that diminishes the risk of passengers gambling with their lives and property while taking this vital mode of transportation.

Here are my two cents on how to implement this system to effectively impact the lives and safety of the travelling public:

1) Hire a proven performer (such as: Mr Danville Walker, Mr Chris Zacca, etc) whose transformational management skills could be utilised to skilfully acquire, structure and manage the nation’s fleet of taxis.

2) All taxis are owned by the government, with drivers employed to operate them.

3) Each taxi has an identifying number and an assigned driver.

4) Establish a tracking system for every taxi.

5) Quality assurers (unknown to driver) take taxis randomly and report to management.

6) Pre-vetting and ongoing vetting of drivers by security intelligence bureaus.

7) Establish a panic button security system in taxis that must be working at all times.

8) A real-time video-surveillance system in every taxi manned by security professionals .

9) All drivers are trained in customer service, communication, and basic first-aid skills.

10) Provide a customer feedback channel via smartphones, computers, etc.

11) Free Wi-Fi available to passengers.

12) Multimedia entertainment during travel.

This system, if implemented efficiently, could have several spin-offs.

- It would help to create a more orderly, decent and gentle society.

- It would provide the ability to earn from advertising revenue from the multimedia platform/Wi-Fi.

- It would be an effective security and crime-fighting tool.

- It would raise the standard of travel for the populace.

- It would diminish anxiety and fear among passengers.

I humbly trust that this idea will find its way into the discourse of powerful movers and shakers who will deliberate with God’s guidance to once and for all shield Jamaican people from the reckless and dangerous taxi system terrorising our people.

Paul Bennett

pabloben79@gmail.com