Premier: taxi industry needs to improve standards of service
The taxi industry is to face a major overhaul, according to the Premier who said drivers must improve standards of service.
Speaking in the House of Assembly on Friday, David Burt said that taxi companies were failing to provide a service to late-night revellers trying to make their way home safely and that other private companies could be drafted in to plug the gap.
Mr Burt spoke out after Marco Warren, 29, died after he was hit by a vehicle while walking to his home in Hamilton Parish last Sunday.
Police were notified of the incident at about 3.15am after Mr Warren was found lying in the road just west of the junction of North Shore Road and Trinity Church Road.
Mr Warren was suffering from head injuries but still breathing and was taken to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, where he later died. Mr Warren’s death was the fifth road fatality this year.
Mr Burt insisted that taxi companies across the island were frequently off-duty after midnight, forcing late-night partygoers to find other ways of getting home.
In a damning critique of the industry, an angry Mr Burt told MPs: “If you call a taxi at two o’clock at night you’re not going to get one. You’re not! These are the facts.”
The Premier added: “What I have told the Minister of Transport is very simple, if the taxis won’t pick them up, then we need to make it available for others to do so.
“We have to, because we cannot continue to go through this cycle. It is not OK. And so when we speak about acting, the Government must act and the Government will act and I know that the Minister of Transport will close this.
“The truth is … we have not made the progress on transport issues that is necessary. End of story.
“And it is a fact that it is really hard to get from place to place in safety if you are not fit to drive.
“It is a problem that we cannot manage to address. Let me be clear, we will fix it, because we cannot stay in a space where people who may want to make the right decision cannot get home if they want to.”
Mr Burt was supported by Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, who claimed that the island was facing “a crisis” in road-traffic fatalities.
Mr Weeks said that, although the issue was not political, the Government would be introducing measures in a bid to tackle the problem.
He said: “The Government is not blind or deaf and we are in midst of putting some programmes and measure together to try to stem this national crisis that we’re in the midst of.”
Although Mr Weeks did not refer to any specific measures, the Government is considering increasing penalties for certain driving offences. A new network of CCTV cameras to monitor driver speeds is also in the pipeline.
Those initiatives were supported by Michael Dunkley, the opposition One Bermuda Alliance spokesman for National Security, who renewed his earlier calls for tough measures against poor driving habits.
During Friday’s debate, Mr Dunkley said he was “devastated” to learn of the latest death on Bermuda’s roads.
He said the issue of road safety had been discussed by multiple governments for decades without sufficient action to address it.
“We need to enforce the rules of the world and we need to give the Bermuda Police Service the ability to enforce the rules of the road,” he said.
Mr Dunkley said that bad driving habits had been tolerated for too long, noting that it was common for motorists to flash their headlights to let other drivers know that police were ahead.
He added that the Road Policing Unit was understaffed and that urgent investment was needed in the island’s CCTV system to make sure it was fit for purpose.
Mr Dunkley also said fixed penalties in place for traffic violations needed to be updated, while legislation regarded drinking and driving needed to be strengthened.
“We can do better than this,” he said. “I am sick and tired of the situation on our roads and losing young people. More young people die on our roads than any other cause of death.
“Those people haven’t had the opportunity to live a life and enjoy life. We can do better than that.”
Police are investigating Mr Warren’s death. Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Sergeant Nigel Gittens at 717 2182, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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