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Why Passenger Comfort and Safety is Not a Priority .

Updated on February 27, 2013

Shown in this picture is a sight common in many of the rural areas of least developed nations. The safety and comfort of a passenger is not a concern for the vehicle owner and the passengers do not mind about the awkward conditions of the travel or whatever condition the vehicle is in. All they are worried about is getting to their destination quickly and at an affordable price. One may asks weather the countries have traffic laws to control this unsafe practises. Yes there are traffic laws which are well versed. The laws are more or less similar or adopted from the ones of their former coloniser.The above picture was taken when the truck was pulled aside by police at a traffic check point. Despite the continuous presence of police on the road, the people choose to ignore the law. Why? Because of the following reasons;

1. Limited or lack of choices.

Public transport operated by the government are non existent in rural areas as the rural population is scattered and as such it is not economically viable to have a public transport system.The people utilise whatever means of transport that is available to go from place to place. It may be a bicycle, a canoe, boat , walking, a car, bus, truck or train . There are times when the people do not have much option to choose from. Here are the most likely reasons they will still get on a vehicle that is already full or not road worthy.

  • This is the only vehicle that they may see that day or that they have to be in a certain place at a certain time or their garden produce will go bad if they do not go into town quickly to sell.
  • They utilise fully whatever vehicle that was available. The regular passenger vehicle was not available, it could have been on hire or was off the road for service and repair.
  • This vehicle is the only passenger vehicle in the area. They are just unfortunate that everyone else is going into town or to the market on the same day.
  • The vehicle had been hired for the day and the passengers loaded as much as they can because this is the only trip for the month or so.
  • The people do not have a say on what goes on the vehicle and how much. The driver and his assistant do whatever they please, even if it means exceeding the limit for carrying people and the cargo.
  • This is the most cheapest transport or is free to use and people go for it despite the lack of comfort and safety.

The only suitable transport to town for workers from Amanab, a remote station in PNG, only recently linked to town by logging roads.
The only suitable transport to town for workers from Amanab, a remote station in PNG, only recently linked to town by logging roads. | Source

2. The opportunity and desire to make more money

The more people and cargo on board, the more money one can collect. The fee is usually charged on per head and the number of bags.

  • Since the people have no choices, the truck owners take advantage of the situation and charge a fee for the service despite the bad conditions of the truck, the lack of comfort or the awkward situation which they create by taking in more than required number of passengers and the amount of cargo.
  • The vehicle travel long distances for days to do deliveries at farms, towns, mine or private properties and often return empty. So to utilise the return trip and make it economical, passengers or cargo are collected on the way and a fee is usually collected for the service.

3. The urge to help

  • In a society where everyone helps or need each other's help or understands the situation. It is normal to give rides to strangers or get rides from strangers. As long as there was a space big enough to sit or stand they will try to get someone on board. Just to get them to their destination or the nearest place where they have excess to public transport.
  • Farm owners who own big trucks do provide transportation for their workers and also to people living in the community as part of their public relations.

4. Lack of Sense of Responsibility

  • The well being of the passengers is not a major concern for the driver. He is providing a service and this is all there is. Take it or leave it.
  • Most vehicle operators knows very well the traffic laws of their country however, choose to ignore them. They take the risks and usually hope that they will not be caught breaking the laws. However, if caught, the penalty is usually an on the spot cash fine. Which are later recouped from the passengers or via other means.
  • The driver usually does not own the vehicle, so any other traffic infringement is the responsibility of the owner. The operator has nothing to loose. Except may loose his job or licence after repetitive offence.

It is uncommon for people to report traffic infringement. This may be seen as betrayal or making it inconvenient for everyone should you report such incident. It is seen as only a minor issue. It's no big deal.

Passenger going into town. The journey will take 12-15 hours.
Passenger going into town. The journey will take 12-15 hours. | Source

An Example

The picture on the right is a typical example of an overloaded and crowded boat that was going into town, which we (my partner, myself and 4 children) had no choice but to be passengers. We were returning to town after a holiday. My partner had to return to his job overseas in a few days time. The reasons we got on the boat was that we didn't have much choices in the first place. We were told that a much faster, bigger and comfortable boat was in for service and will not be available and there was another one (more comfortable) that calls in to the island twice a week. It hasn't been there the last two weeks so there was no guarantee it will show up this week.

Because of the above reasons, more then required number of people boarded the boat. We had to sit up the whole journey because every little space on the boat was taken, even the roof top, there was no space to lie down for a nap or stretch our leg. We had children on our laps. It was easy for children or adults to fall or be knocked overboard.The weather was fine. If the weather had been bad, we would have no way of being protected by the rain and the aerosol from the sea.The sides of the boats were open. It had a bit of covering but was not sufficient to block off wind or rain. A life raft was available however considering the number of people on board and should the boat capsize that raft I believe was not big enough for everyone.

Anyway, initially as we were on the way out of the bay and towards town, passengers kept coming on board even though it was already full. I was worried about the number of people on board and started talking and was assured that the boats were built specially for this part of the country and were meant for carrying large amount of cargo eg. bags of copra (dried meat or kernel of coconut for processing into oil) and they are built to withstand the waves and this was the way they have always traveled and nothing serious happened to them. I was not from this area. I came from a village where we had excess to lots of trucks and cars so I wasn't used to this sort of travel. Anyway, we traveled all night and reached the town just before midday. The trip was about 15 hours. However, before getting into the port in town we stopped at a secluded location near the shore and about half of the passengers got off. I enquired about where they were going and was told that they were going to walk or catch a lift into town. We had to travel with less people on board because the boat operator will get into trouble with port authority or police if the boat was full. He will be penalised for not following safety rules.

Here is our boat docking near a tree and unloading passengers before we get into town.
Here is our boat docking near a tree and unloading passengers before we get into town. | Source

So if you come across anything like this, it's not because we do not respect the law or we do not care about being comfortable. We just don't have any other Choices.



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