At one time cars were scarce and roads were abundant. Now cars are in abundance and roads have become a scarce commodity. Driving in Kingston is more than an exercise in patience and going to the country risking your life on approaching almost every corner.
I spent six months away from Jamaica recently and on returning I could not help being struck by the extent to which driving had deteriorated. At one stage it was minibus drivers who were driving in a dreadful many, now it appears that most people have adopted the minibus style. Showing some consideration for drivers coming out of side roads turns into a wholesale rush of everyone forcing their way through the opening created for the few to which the courtesy was extended. Showing courtesy on the road has become a sign of being “soft” and foolish as you become the one who gets held up. Plus there is all the cursing, coloured with expletives, that you get from the people who become stuck behind you.
Most frightening sometimes are the drivers who are coming with speed on your side of the road and expect you to move over to make way for them, while they overtake a whole line of traffic on their side. Then red light done mean stop anymore or even proceed with caution. Many drivers rush through the red as if it was green.
In speaking to one friend about it he was of the opinion that almost every dog and his wife is now driving, given the poor state of public transportation, and that there were too many “buttus” driving cars. In his view, at one time it was people of some class who drove cars, but motors cars are no longer a symbol of class, hence the deterioration in driving.
In thinking about the “class” explanation of deterioration of driving I quickly remembered recently being cut off and run jostled by an elderly high brown lady driving a Morris Minor. While not intending any racial or sexist slur, I think most people would agree that one of the symbols of genteel and proper “brought-up-sy” in Jamaica has been that of an elderly high brown lady driving a Morris Minor. When she starts to drive like the minibus driver then the change in behaviour is not a matter of class. People of all classes are now “driving bad” and mad.
It seems to be that at the root of the present standard of driving is the fact that roads have become a scarce commodity and everybody is fighting to get their share with little regard for anybody else. Lawlessness prevails on the roads. Justice has departed from the relationship between most drivers on the road. It’s a free for all with each against all. Very few drivers are waiting their turn, out of respect for the fact that others had arrived first. Many are claiming both sides of the road for themselves since they must have the right of way even when there is a long back-up of the traffic. The Road Code is now observed in the breach and could be said to be non-existent.
Law enforcement on the road appears to be concentrated on speed traps. I have not seen anyone being pull over and given a ticket for obvious breaches of the Road Code. At the same time, it has to be conceded that there is no way that the police can deal with the avalanche of disorder that exists on the road.
In the final analysis, it comes down to how each of us who drive decides to deal with the situation. The great temptation is to behave exactly as most drivers seem to be doing. I have to admit to yielding to this temptation on a few occasions. However, I have decided to resist this temptation as far as is humanly possible.
My intentions are as follows:
- Not to yield to the road hogs and those trying to rush me off my side of the road. To yield is to encourage this type of behaviour which totally disregards other drivers and their road rights.
- To wait my turn in coming out of side roads.
- To give way and be courteous to those stuck waiting their turn coming out of side roads.
- To keep my cool and patience by setting out earlier than usual for the ten-minute journey that now takes half-an-hour.
One can only hope and Law and justice will return to the roads and drive as we being against to respect each other’s rights, even when the commodity is scarce.