Minibus madness!

| 04/05/2010

I’m scared. I have the right ofway and I’m driving below the speed limit. By all universal laws of traffic, justice, and morality here on God’s green Earth, I should be able to drive by the stationary vehicle up ahead without incident. But I know better, for this is not a normal Cayman Islands driver.

He is one of “them”, a Road Warrior beholding to no traffic codes or shred of common courtesy. Far better suited for touring an apocalyptic future and jousting with Mad Max, he is instead miscast on West Bay Road in the civilized present.

Opposed to automobile anarchy, I cringe in fear and disgust. I also tighten my abs, squeeze the steering wheel, and brace for possible impact. Here we go, another routine encounter with a Grand Cayman minibus driver. The driver, probably a Sith Lord or something similar, is cloaked in darkness thanks to illegal tint on his windows. But I know he’s in there somewhere, not paying attention to me. Perhaps he is talking on a cell phone, or maybe bickering with a customer in the rear seat. No, come to think of it, it’s more likely that he is looking right at me in one of his mirrors but will pull out in front of me, nonetheless. He will expect me to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident. How can I know all this about a driver I have never met and can’t even see? I am confident that he can’t or won’t drive properly for the simple reason that he is a minibus driver on a Grand Cayman road. That’s all one needs to know.

My vehicle profiling instincts turn out to be right on target—as usual. The minibus pulls out in front of me with no warning. Fortunately, I was already at red-alert status and able to brake in time. Had I made the mistake of assuming that a normal human being with a conscience and basic driving skills was behind the wheel, I might well have ended up in a wreck.

So who are these people? What is wrong with the majority of minibus drivers on Grand Cayman? Weren’t teenage boys supposed to be the stupidest, most obnoxious, and most dangerous drivers on our roads? Maybe not. It’s arguable, but they may have lost that dishonourable distinction, thanks to the daily efforts of our island’s minibus maniacs. Yes, against all odds, Cayman’s mass transit professionals seem to be more of a consistent annoyance and threat to safety than even the worst of our emotionally undeveloped and testosterone-overdosed young men with delusions of invulnerability.

So many of Grand Cayman’s minibus drivers are so bad that this issue would appear to run deeper than mere incompetence and ignorance. Their behaviour on the roads seems far too radical and consistently terrible to be explained away as nothing more than carelessness and rudeness. How can they maintain such a low level of driving competency? It can’t be easy to be this bad day after day. Anyone can be a poor driver, but to operate a vehicle in the unholy manner most of our minibus drivers manage would seem to require something extraordinary. Who knows! Maybe there is a secret training facility in East End somewhere. Perhaps they put in long hours of practice in order to perfect their impressive repertoire of chaotic manoeuvres. That would explain it.

To be fair, not every one of Cayman’s minibus drivers should be jailed for attempted murder at the end of every shift. There could be as many as two or three of them who are good drivers. To those rare specimens, let it be known that Cayman applauds your willingness to swim against the current and drive as if you can see, hear and think. You are bold misfits and rebels within your profession. It must take great courage for you to defy convention by obeying traffic signs and driving in a manner that avoids rather than invites accidents. It is unfair that you may sometimes suffer from guilt by association, but this is the sad reality of your chosen career. You are the few noble heroes, a tiny minority lost among a horde of barbarians. Perhaps we shouldstudy you in order to determine how you turned out so differently from the majority of your colleagues.

In all seriousness, can someone in a position of authority please ask/demand that all minibus drivers begin driving as if human life is worth more than a $5 fare? If you think this is no big deal, then please try to put yourself in the shoes of the hard-working people who have no choice but to rely on these Caribbean Knievels for daily transport. Imagine if it was your mother riding inside one of those metal demons barrelling down the road with no concern for the laws of society or physics. What if your child was walking home from school and a minibus suddenly rounded the bend? Nothing to be concerned about? Imagine if every car driver in Cayman decided to adopt the driving style of minibus drivers. Would you care then?

Category: Viewpoint

Comments (31)

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  1. A-nony-mouse says:

    One word – AMEN!!

  2. papercaymanian says:

    Bus stops.

    Massive fines for picking up fares in non bus stop areas.

    Quadruple fines for both bus and taxi drivers. (It really is a matter of public safety.)

    It should be a requirement for all elected officials to read Don’t Stop the Carnival. Perhaps one or two would actually get it.

    • Anonymous says:

      OK, I’m sorry but as a bus user who lives miles from any of the main roads and has to pay my bus driver extra to go off route to pick me up/drop me off (or walk more than two miles), I am not liking this bus stop idea.  The fact that every residential part of the island is not easily accessible by road, and is never likely to be on any main bus route makes scheduled buses and bus stops would be logistically inpracticable in a small island environment.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Spot on Article… but you forgot to mention that it seems the authorities only take note when Minibus drivers are carrying weapons… not when they’re breaking the traffic laws! And just to add… when they are carrying weapons they are dealt no punishment… they just have their deadly toys taken away… the irony being that the deadliest of their toys (their vehicles) remain in their sole custody!

  4. DA says:

    Heh Heh,

     

    Funny read, but i tend to zoom around them rather than try to clamp on the brakes resulting in one other unfortunate soul rear ending my vehicle.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This article was so witty and well written and, sadly, absolutely true and scary! But yes, will anything be done? No. the PT Office doesn’t have enough inspectors to monitor this and the Police see and ignore. But motorists have the power to record plate numbers and report to the PT Office

    • Hidden_Goldmine says:

      If we are going to start recording license plate number, why stop with the busses? There are just as many bad "regular" drivers who doesn’t what mirrors and indicators are for or what right a way means AND who’s got it!?

      What we need is the government to increase the number of traffic police, give them the power to fine people for all non accident traffic offenses and have them start making a fortune for the government and making the road a safer place.

      • Anon says:

        The first reasoned response I have read on this topic and thank you for that.

        As a passenger (who long since stopped driving because hardly any other road users out there seem to know or understand the highway code), I find it a damned sight safer and less stressful catching the bus every day than I ever did when I drove to work.  Now I just sit and observe the foolishness as let the bus driver do the worrying… and believe me I have to thank some of those drivers for being so alert, as we’ve almost been run off the road by cars more times than I can mention in the last year or two alone.

        Its easy to sit behind the wheel and judge other road users, but I think you get a whole lot more reasoned with your thinking when you’re just watching and not involved. 

        Most of the drivers who swear and gesticulate at the bus drivers, are the one’s who (according to the highway code) are in the wrong, but they feel sooooo righteous behind that wheel don’t they?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Just like any other comment or thread on this website which is bang on, nothing will be done and things will continue as they are until another innocent person loses their life.

    I love this website but often think that only 100 people are reading and posting on it, none of which are those that can (or are willing to do) anything about the problems.  I guess we keepposting and maybe one day a politician or the governer will read something and take action.  Highly unlikely but I’ll keep the faith nonetheless.

  7. Thankful Again says:

    I agree with you.  Well written and thanks for the humour and scarcasm in writing this very serious problem.

    I too have been witness to the nasty habbits many of them exhibits including the one you allude to.  I believe they confuse their right to stop frequently on the sides of the road at will with pulling back in the traffic lane at will.  They typically do it as a rolling merge.  I should say that is the goal.  The only problem with that is that they do: am going to force to to stop merge…I know you do not want an accident merge….do you not see am a minibus merge.  Rolling Merges are great and useful but should be executed safely when no the line of cars behind you have safely passed by.  Then there is the turning challenge that they deploy.  They indicate using the turning signal…great! But wait, they begin to turn their wheels and stop with a quarter of their vehicle in your lane.  This is to force you to stop.  This happens a lot with the big tour buses turning onto the dock area coming from north in front of Elmslie Memorial church.  I think those drivers are saying: do you not see, I have tourist and let them not see that you will not be nice and let me by.  We must leave a good impression.  never mind that they are forcing you to stop.

    I do not want to deal with the minibus drivers that believe that the parking lot opposite the tiki-bar is their personal right way to merge onto the west bay road heading to west bay.  Why wait in the line of cars that is slowly progressing towards the junction next to the coutyard marriott.  Oh, I forgot to mention, they do a force merge when they make it to the centre lane.  They stop all the others who have made the centre lane from way back. 

    The laws do apply to them.  They need to be monitored.  I would suggest that the Public Transport board produce stickers with hotline numbers that is mandatory to be placed on the back of minibus public transport buses.  This was teh public can report an incident as it happens.  Of course they would each have to have a number.

    I too, as controversial as it may be, wish to side with the hints of previous writers, that suggest that many of the bad driving skills exhibited is seen mostly in Jamaica.  I am sure the fact that a vast majority (75% my guess) of the drivers are new caymanians originally from that country, plays no small part in this happening.

    • Anon says:

      The funny thing is, I’ve travelled on the buses for years, and the majority of them aren’t driven (but are owned) by Caymanians in any event.  This would explain your ‘controversial’ "75%" figure I guess.

      The few Caymanian drivers I know break every rule in the book and brag about it": "because dem Jamaicans can’t do this they’d lose their permit/licence" or "I know all the police officers so they aren’t going to pull me."  As a matter of fact, there’s one driving around uninsured and unlicenced right now in the Eastern districts.  Everybody knows this but nobody does anything about it?  Why is that I wonder?  Had he been of any other nationality he would have quickly been dealt with.

      • Thankful Again says:

        Here my trial….justifying bad habbits and rudeness. 

         So let me get your logic, if a rentl car company rent me their car they are responsible for my careless driving?!

        Further, this is the Cayman Islands – the last time I checked.  So if you telling me that they owned by Caymanians then great and will accept the twist on my guesstimate as to who actually drive them.  Although, I am not as pig-headed as you would like and did say that I suspect they are driven too by Caymanians but "NEW" caymanians ORGINALLY from Jam.  So I have embraced our 1st generation caymanian and used the separation only to underscore my point of jamaica being known for "craziness" by minibus drivers and that’s where most of ours seem to hail from again ORGINALLY.

        But lets be clear and get off your toes: if they from tim buc too, canada or outer space, if they have some nasty dutty driving (h)-abit dem nah bilang pun deh road and may even need a claps pun dem neckback…zeen!

        If I not tired of justifying myself as a Caymanian in the Cayman Islands!!  What a mess we in eh. 

         

  8. Anonymous again! says:

    BRILLIANT ARTICLE AND COMMENTS!!!

  9. Anonymous says:

    It is a rare occasion to see a minibus being driven in a manner that vaguely resembles the law.

    It is interesting to me to observe that the speed limit on the road to and from Spotts dock is increased specially for minibuses every time there is a cruise ship using Spotts. They line the side of the main road where ever the minibus stops and pick the post dangerous places to leave their vehicles by blocking the vision of motorists trying to leave subdivisions in the area. Where is the Police Traffic Dept when they are most needed? They don’t need to inconvenience themselves by driving around looking for offenses the Minibusses provide them with a personalised road show and the opportunities for ticket writing are right there for the taking. 

    Their most recent example of having no thought  for other road users is to stop on the bridge on the by-pass to West Bay then start off without any warning .

    I could go on but others have helped make my point.

    If so many people can see this stupidity why can the Traffic cops or is the sun too hot for them to think about turning off their cel phones and get out of their airconditioned cars and actually do their job?

  10. Shock! says:

    I saw a mini-bus today with BOTH its brake lights WORKING.  I was stunned.  Has the driver not read the memo?

    Police – when you do the road blocks make ALL the mini-buses and taxis test their brake lights and take the ones that fail of the road for a day or two. 

  11. Anonymous says:

    I long ago stopped going to Disney World for bumper car rides. There’s not much thrill in it anymore after spending years going to and from work each day on the roads of Grand Cayman with the Mad Max mini-bus drivers! And yes, that training facility really DOES exist – it’s in operation every day on the next island east and a little south of East End. I know, I’ve been there and (only just) lived to tell about it!

  12. Ummmm... says:

     Bus drivers and taxis should be held to higher standards – and the punishments for violations should be much more far reaching.

    If they new they would lose their license for 6 months for a moving violation, you can bet they would be a little more respectful.  

    And 3 standing violations (parking on yellow lines in handicap spots, etc.) within a year should merit the same…

    And the final piece of the puzzle is getting the RCIP to enforce the laws…  Too often I have watched violations take place right in front of police cars who do nothing.  I once asked a police man about how this could happen and was told he worked in a different department and traffic department is responsible for enforcing traffic laws.  Last I checked, if any police officer spotted a crime, even a traffic violation, in progress, they were being paid to enforce the law and deal with it…  

     

     

  13. Dred says:

    I would add the Eastern routes issues of them overtaking on the side of the road especially around Marina Drive then there is the short cut in front of Red Bay School that some people take. Going home people are suppose to go at 15mpg across the Red Bay School but they go at 40mph no matter what.

    I don’t REALLY want this to be a Cayman-NonCayman issue but some of it seems to be. I stress some of it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh yes, you hit that one on the head.  I have seen many taxis drive alonside the road for a good quarter mile and then swerve back into traffic.  In fact, I took the license plates of two of them, notified thepolice and notified the Public Transport authority.   Guess what?  They STILL are doing it, the SAME two.  I didn’t expect the Police to do much or call back, but the Public Transport could have at least returned a call stating they would look into it.  NO ACCOUNTABILITY until someone is killed!

  14. Animaliberator says:

    No matter how much it hurts to say this but if our traffic cops could be a bit more on the ball and make a truckload of money for the RCIPS coffers while they are at it, a few things would drastically change once that cop show is on the road.

    One has to realize how it starts sometimes why these guys are so hyped up even before they hit the road to get rid of their frustrations. It starts with parking, they literally park anywhere and everywhere, no matter signs, yellow road lines (I have to believe that most of the drivers see them as a road decoration or something rather then an indicator as to what should not be taking place), other road users, as a result not being able to bypass the parked vehicle on our mostly rather narrow roads, people honk horns, stick up fingers and what not and anyone can see them light up like a fireball why WE have the nerve to even indicate that they should not be parking there awaiting customers, blood pressures go up through the roof and that is the type of driver who then takes off as if his minibus or whatever is on fire too.

    Quite often as another result of that, people get killed or near to it, animals don’t even stand chance being avoided, just look at the roads, chickens, cats, dogs, iguana’s smashed to a pulp almost anywhere you go. Accidents happen but I do believe that most people would show respect for all living beings whilst on the road.

    Sadly, severe punishments are quite often the only deterrents these types of drivers understand, if a certain driver acquires a rapsheet over time, this person should be seriously examined to see if he/she is actually mentally cabable of even being allowed on the roads. Lives are at stake here, in- as well as outside of the vehicle.

    We all know it is hard to go with the changes but if anyone has read the book "Don’t Stop The Carnival" by Herman Wouk, all those who did will know what I mean; Nothing much has changed since the book was written in the mid 1950’s on an island somewhere in the Caribbean.

    So, my recommendation is; Come on people, let’s be and stay friends and show some respect to one another, we’re all in the same little boat, trying to stay alive in some form or another, people and animals alike. Obey traffic rules, it’s not that hard to flip that switch known as an indicator, slow down or stop for an innocent animal of any kind attempting to cross the road. Park/wait in such a fashion, even if illegal since parking tickets are not on the high list with our traffic cops and trust me, I know this for a fact without going in to details, park so that you do not obstruct other road users trying to get out of driveways or other narrow roads. This will keep "species" alive and you get to keep your money in your pocket and/or stay out of jail.

    Sounds like a win-win deal to me.

     

     

    • Anon says:

      I totally agree except for any stopping/swerving/etc. for green iguanas & chickens.

  15. Anon says:

    I catch the bus daily to and from the Eastern Districts, and have done so for years.  From what I read, I am mighty glad I don’t live in West Bay.  I don’t experience this as a passenger with any of the buses on my route.  The drivers are courteous and friendly, they are considerate to both passengers and other road users.  If this is how the WB drivers are behaving they are going to end up giving the other (courteous and polite) drivers from other district a bad name.

    • Anonymous says:

      Am I missing something here?  I too live in the eastern districts and they behave the very same way! Maybe you have become used to this, and maybe they are pleasant and courteous to you who utilize it everyday, but I guarantee you,  they drive in the very same manner, because I have to drive behind them day and night.  Further, my son takes the bus as his hours are different from mine, and yes there are a few that are curteous and do drive sensibly, but that’s a select few. Every single comment on this thread applies to the eastern district as well.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Fi Real!

     

    Most of these drivers should have their licences revoked!

  17. Jacob says:

    Not long ago on one of my cycle rides I do for excersice I was coming down West Bay Road when I notice two tourists walking on my side of the road. While thinking "they have a long walk ahead of them" I hear the toot of a car behind my followed by a bus swerving around me and slams on his breaks right in front of me….. thanks to my lightning fast reflexes (sharpened by years of cycling in Grand Cayman) I also block my breaks and skids to a halt just behind hime. With the adrenaline rushing through my body from the near crash I just experience I move up to the window and in a calm and polite way tells him that he has to look where he is going, where to he replied "I used my horn"…. it must be me who didn’t get the memo stating that using your horn in the car now means "Watch out I’m going to over take you, pull in right in front of you and slam on my breaks" !!!! Here I thought it meant "Thank you" or "Hey man"…. how wrong you can be!

    I wish this was a first and I wish that it was only the mini busses but I’m going to stop before I really get started or I’ll spent the rest of the morning writing down issues….. all I’ll do is leave you with an exerpt from the Traffic Law:

    60. It is the duty of every person driving any kind of vehicle upon the road –

    (a) to drive in such a manner as to have full control of the vehicle at all times;

    (b) to keep to the left half of the road except when travelling in a one way street or overtaking, making a right hand turn or when otherwise directed by traffic sign or signal or a police signal;

    (c) before making a right hand turn, to give right of way to all approaching vehicles;

    (f) to drive at such speed and in such a manner and at such a distance from other vehicles as to be able to stop in an emrgency without being involved in a collision;

    (h) to give prior warning of any intended manoeuvre by means of the prescribed hand or traffic indicator signals;

    (i) to avoid obstructing other vehicles whether the vehicle under control is moving or stationary;

    (l) not to park any vehicle in such a place or in such a way as to obscure the view of the road or of any road sign or road intersection or junction from any other road user or to deny to any other road user free passage along any road.

     

    I guess that we could call paragraph (a) for the patty, mobile phone or checking emails on your Blackberry rule, (b) for the that-middle-lane-is-for-right-hand-turns-not-driving-a-mile-in-lane rule and (c) & (f) could be the active-break-test rules.
    I have a feeling that the indicators on many cars are like the tinted windows… get them fixed before inspection and when inspection is passed drive straight to the mechanic to get the indicators disabled.
    (i) and (l)…. come on people pull over to the side of the road when you have to talk to your friend in the car on the other side of the road, who you haven’t seen for 5 minutes and please use the parking space 15 feet away from the entrance to the store/restaurant instead of parking.

    And what if we had enough traffic police so these rules could be properly enforced. We would end up with safer roads AND the government would make A LOT of much needed money.

    And what if the traffic police where actually allowed just to write a fine for the offense instead of e.g. driving without your seat belt on equals appearence in court. Isn’t that a waste of the court’s valuable time and the government’s money?!

     

     

  18. Chet O. Ebanks says:

    I am gonna pass my two cents on this one. I take the bus daily to work by choice becuseI don’t want to drive,. And over the years the problem has gotten worse. Most bus drivers are just racing for that almighty 2 dollars and don’t care who the hurt. Alot of them are very rude to the locals and tourist and I refuse to take alot of them that drive the West bay route. Please can someone police these crazy drivers, the police need to have more of a presence on the roads, especially on West bay road and in West Bay. These drivers don’t care about their passengers, there a re a few who do and excellent job to those I say thank you. In my words there are just too many buses running the West Bay route, some mornings I count 5 or 6 in the space of 10minutes coming into GT, shame on the public transport board or in other words the lack of the public transport board shame on you.  A concerned Caymanian. 

  19. Anonymous says:

    CC – you are so right.  The minibus drivers are downright dangerous and I’m so tired of having to yield to them, to avoid being in an accident.  Why can’t they obey the rules of the road like the rest (or most) of us.  And why don’t the police ticket them for dangerous/reckless driving?

  20. Anonymous says:

    There is a training facility, but it is a little further east than East End.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I once saw one of the idiot crazy mini-bus drivers overtaking like crazy at around 7pm going up West Bay Road.  In trying to avoid a car in the middle road this selfish person crossed over into the far oncoming traffic lane.  It was disgusting.

    One traffic offence or ticket and they should be banned for a month or three.  The bottom line is all that matters to some of these fools.

    • Anonymous says:

      Night time scares me the most, they cant see in broad daylight but with the addition of darkness they become truly cloaked, no lights, dark windows, no break or indicator lights……..perhaps the price of gas is now so high they have to save money by not running the alternator…however there are a couple of diehards who drive down Walkers road with their lights on full beam, during the hours of the Sith, probably looking for alien life forms disguised as mini busses!

      They should be utterly ashamed of themselves…

  22. Joe Average says:

    CC:  You’re being too harsh.  It’s one of the things that gives Cayman it’s color!!  How boring it would be to just trundle along in traffic with a cup of coffee yawning away without the ever-present thrill generated by the minibus drivers!  They enhance the experience of driving.  And make us more aware of our surroundings!  I was never this alert on the freeway!!

    My finger goes up to them!