by Christina Smith
The minibus sector in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is experiencing, on average, 13 accidents per month, with 64 accidents recorded so far for 2023.
Data from the Traffic Department of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) shows that 163 accidents involving mini-buses were recorded in 2022. For the period January to May last year,74 minibus accidents occurred, 10 fewer than what has been recorded for the same period this year.
The issue of reckless driving and accidents continues to be a major talking point on radio talk shows, social media and among the general population. The frequency of accidents involving passenger transport vehicles is also on the radar of local insurance companies particularly Metrocint General Insurance Limited – a company that insures between 70 to 80 percent of mini-buses currently in operation.
Manager at Metrocint, Cecil McKie and also a member of The Insurance Association of St. Vincent and the Grenadines spoke to SEARCHLIGHT in an interview about the challenges to insuring this class of vehicles considering the frequency of accidents.
“… Everybody sees the challenge. There’s too many accidents with mini buses; persons that have been seriously hurt or killed or maimed.”
McKie said while the challenges are well-documented and discussed, he believes the situation is not hopeless and can be handled with a multi-sectoral approach involving policy makers, the police, passengers and the insurance companies.
He said insurance companies have been using strict checks to ensure that responsible drivers are behind the wheel of mini-buses, however, they have recognized that owners are breaking the rules by using drivers who have not been vetted.
“We will vet the drivers to make sure that they are legitimate, they have the necessary licence in place and that they are responsible persons … our age limit is 25 years. That is why the discussion with the policymakers, legislators is important, because we see from time to time where persons who are driving these vehicles are not authorised drivers.”
McKie explained that accidents occurring with unauthorized drivers come at a”heavy cost” for the insurance company as it relates to handling injury claims for passengers of the vehicle which falls under the category of third party.
“The state ensures at all times that the population is protected hence the Third Party Act which says that the insurance company has to respond to damages to the third party. Once there is a claim of a third party, the insurance company is obligated to respond to that. And we’re seeing such incidents more and more. So it is definitely a problem.”
McKie noted the small number of insurance companies that are willing to provide coverage for mini-buses in light of the high risks. He called on other companies to share the load of insuring the sector as a way to make the environment “fair”.
“You can’t force an insurance company to accept any particular type of business. But if we want to be fair as operators in the industry, we have to be able to share the risks that are presented in the industry. You might find three or four insurance companies that will readily do business and others may do it if the persons have other types of insurance with them. Why should the coverage of these operators on the road be left up to local insurance providers. I don’t think that is fair.”
He said a collaborative relationship between the Traffic Department and the Insurance Association where information is provided about drivers and their accident record, can work to keep bad drivers out of the mini-bus sector.
“If the traffic department police provide the necessary information to, let’s say, the umbrella body the insurance companies in terms of accidents, drivers involved, then the Insurance Association could share that information with the operators in the industry. Yes, you may see that [as] privileged information but if we are looking for solutions,” Mc Kie tapered off.
He also spoke to the need to have an established umbrella body for the private transport sector, one which would hold the drivers and owners to a standard and therefore improve the daily operations of the sector.