QUESTION: Dear Legal Wiz,
I’ve just returned from a two week vacation. During my time my sisters and I travelled on the Jamaican coaster bus from Kingston to Montego Bay. The ‘ducta’ told us the buses seat five across. I was squeezed in one of the middle seats with a woman larger than myself. When the bus was going up the hill, the traffic stopped because there was an accident. Another big vehicle ran back and hit the bus I was in. It wasn’t hard, so there wasn’t any damage on the bus or the other vehicle which ran back. I told the driver that my back was hurting, and he rudely told me I should have held on properly. I went to the police and they told me the seat I was in was not an allowed seat. The police told me that those seats were outside of the capacity of the bus. What can I do?
RESPONSE: Dear JoAnna
In Jamaica, the Island Traffic Authority limits the seating capacity in the coaster buses to 22 passengers, although the manufacturer stipulates 29. Even then the operators along the Kingston to Montego Bay route pack more than 29 persons in the buses, when five persons are forced to sit across.
The ITA director, Ludlow Powell explains that the Road Traffic Act require unobstructed accessibility from every seat to at least two (2) exits and to at least 14 inches of aisle space. Operators are fully aware that they are not supposed to be carrying more passengers than the number allowed in the registration booklet.
In the past flip seats, which you referred to as the middle seats were counted as part of the vehicle’s passenger carriage capacity.
The bottom line is anyone who sits in these flip seats, especially when the operators force you to double up with someone else, do so at his/her own risk. In the event of an accident, such person(s) is not covered by the insurance, and so must seek other means of getting compensation in the event of an accident.