Law to suspend licences was introduced in 2008 but has not been used until now
Driving on Venezuela‘s lawless roads is a libertarian paradise for some, a hellish, perilous ordeal for others, but now a little piece of history has been made.
Ramon Parra, 41, a bus driver, has become the first person to have a licence suspended after being caught speeding with too many passengers and too few wheels.
“This is a totally new act; for the first time in Venezuela we are suspending a driving licence, for 12 consecutive months,” the national police chief, Luis FernÃ¡ndez, told reporters.
A law allowing authorities to suspend licences was introduced in 2008 but had not been used until now, said FernÃ¡ndez. Killing someone can trigger the maximum suspension of five years.
Under normal circumstances Parra’s bus would not have merited a second glance. Motorways can resemble scenes from Mad Max, with crumbling vehicles racing around huge potholes heedless of oncoming traffic.
But police in Zamora, in the western state of Falcon, decided to make an example of the driver of the bus, which was going too fast, was overloaded with passengers and had one of its six wheels tucked into an aisle, pending repairs.
The vehicle was impounded, another rarity, and the driver and his company, Expreso Los Llano, will be fined, said FernÃ¡ndez.
The move may have been prompted by a survey, published this week, which showed people ranked unsafe buses high on their list of transport concerns.
One reason Venezuela is so full of jalopies is a petrol subsidy: 1.4p per litre, which works out at 70p to fill the tank of an average car. As a result ancient pick-up trucks and buses fill the roads alongside shiny SUVs and other gas guzzlers.
Drink driving is common but breathalysers are almost unknown.