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Let’s stop it before it stops us: Start with bus drivers

EVERY road user in Honiara is grateful to the Traffic Police. They did a good job in the past two weeks, ensuring traffic flow to and from the city was unimpeded. In thanking the police, the contribution by the Japanese Government through JICA in funding the traffic improvement in Honiara is equally acknowledged.

Things, in terms of traffic flow, seem to be looking up.

I am sure many will express the same sentiments. It was such a relief. But the fundamental problem in terms of delays continues. And police don’t seem to bother at all.

It is my guesstimate that up to 75 per cent of the traffic gridlock in Honiara is caused by drivers – yes bus drivers and taxis. Their knowledge of traffic rules let alone courtesies on the road is zilch or nil. This is all because their driver’s licences were never obtained from legitimate driving school.

Let me give you some examples. This incident happened at the Hot Bread Kitchen roundabout at Point Cruz last Friday afternoon. A 12 or 15-seater bus was in right in front of me traveling in the westward direction.

Instead of going round the roundabout, it simply did a U-turn and headed back eastward. It could have caused a huge accident but fortunately, there were no vehicles nearer the roundabout.

Here’s another.

With new markings on the road and bus stands (stops) clearly marked buses are expected to keep to the left lane at all times. But that was not the case last week. One particular bus was on the right lane until it was closer to the bus stop at the Market. He made a sharp left turn in order to get into the bus stop area.

There was a policeman controlling traffic too at the time. Nothing was done to the bus driver. On another occasion three weeks ago, one private vehicle driver was heading east. I was right behind him on the right lane.

Before we approached the market area, he reached out of the driver’s window, grabbed an empty 200L fuel drum on the roadside and flung it across the traffic. It was a miracle no one got hurt.

Today buses continue to use the right lane. They are a matter of a metre or so away from the bus stops before making sharp turns in front of other oncoming vehicles on the left lane. This must be stopped because it is very dangerous to other road users.

In case they do not know, traffic police have all the authority under the sun to pull up these drivers for traffic infringements. In other countries, erring drivers usually have their licence suspended.

We need to do that immediately. Safety must be first.

In the State of Queensland, Australia, drivers booked for traffic infringements usually lose points on their licence. Once a driver is booked four times, his or her licence is suspended for up to a year or more.

In the market area, despite the daily presence of Honiara City Council police, vehicles are simply parked anywhere. Space it seems determines where one can park his/her car.

Why are we so disorderly even on our roads?

It is time traffic police start booking drivers for illegal parking, driving on the wrong lane, particularly buses. We need to change the mindset that is taking root in this country. Law enforcement has a lot to answer for in this.

Some form of deterrents need to be introduced now so that drivers who play with the rule know there are laws in this country. We have now reached a point where unless deterrents are introduced, we can say goodbye to the rule of law in this country.

The trend is that obvious. And it is frightening.

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