Peseros in Mexico City are a fact of life; indeed, due to several mishandlings of transport policy (yes, the government again), they have thrived and carry up to 60% of the city’s passengers. Yet, as everybody knows, they’re unsafe, dangerous, rude and cause endless traffic jams and problems.
Watching two of these behemoths racing down an avenue, in a contest to win god knows what (but usually more passengers, never mind that the poor schmucks already on board are risking their lives), is a sight to behold and a prime example of just how out of control the situation is.
Pesero accidents are quite common, but sometimes they take a turn for the tragic. And strangely, high-profile accidents are the ones that bring the neglect and impunity of the Pesero problem into light.
On October 29th, 2008, a pesero was driving too fast, then rolled over. The tragic result: 15 injured, 2 dead. The two casualties were crushed by the (precarious and strength-lacking) roof and side metal as the vehicle flipped over and ended upside down. The entire scene was gruesome.
People were shocked; the driver escaped. Authorities reacted by launching a massive manhunt for the driver, opening legal procedures against the unit’s owner who is considered an accomplice, as well as cancelling the Pesero’s concession. This is a first, never before has this been done in response to an accident of any kind involving a pesero. So everyone is happy about what happened, right?
Think about this for a minute. Pesero accidents are a dime a dozen. The driver is most often responsible; the owners just ignore the fact and protect themselves with lawyers and amparos (a legal procedure to harbour yourself against government action). People have died before in pesero accidents, as pedestrians run over by Peseros, car drivers or passengers hit by out-of-control units, or everyday passengers.
So why is this the first time one of these negligent criminals has had his concession suspended? While the driver is mostly responsible, it’s the vehicle owner’s responsibility as much as the driver’s. So indeed, any owner whose unit is involved in an accident should have the concession revoked. It doesn’t matter if it was the driver’s fault (why do they hire 18-year-olds with no experience and entrust them with the lives of up to 50 passeners?), or a technical failure (most of the units are in sad conditions, falling apart, and lack even the most basic security measures) or a simple traffic accident (pesero drivers are known for purposely hitting other cars when they feel like it, because their units barely suffer any damage). It’s their responsibility to provide quality service with safe, courteous drivers in up-to-spec units and upholding all traffic regulations; if all, they should be even more cautious than other vehicles.
This of course is never going to happen; the accident will help to make an example and then things will go back to normal. Few people will remember this the next time a fatal accident is caused by a Pesero. Hopefully this article will help change that, so that eventually, Peseros can be replaced by something better. But it won’t happen unless authorities change their policies regarding this problem.