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Saturday, 26 April 2014

On dangerous roads

A FRIEND of mine told me she stopped taking the express bus after she witnessed a driver typing an SMS on his mobile phone. She used to travel between Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur often, and so she opted for the ETS (electric train service) though the fare is more expensive and the daily trips are not as frequent as the express buses.

She said she had also travelled in buses driven recklessly but none of the passengers had dared to reprimand the drivers.

I hope many people can afford to follow in my friend’s footsteps — boycott errant bus companies — to send a stern warning to them.

Yes, I think the bus companies or operators must be held equally, if not fully responsible, for buses driven recklessly by drivers under their employment.

I cringed when I read an article on express buses in The Star on Wednesday quoting a bus operator saying: “Not all drivers were bad but the ones giving the industry a bad name could not be booted out because operators needed any driver they could get their hands on.”

To me, this operator is as good as saying his bus must follow the schedule even though he knew that there is something very wrong with the driver but he has no other driver to take over the job.

And that this operator still allows his bus to be in use even though he knew the bus is faulty and he does not have another bus as a replacement. This operator sounded most irresponsible and shameless.

Anyway, I believe this operator is not a rare case. The list of excuses from operators for their drivers to continue their reckless driving is long; from shortage of drivers and lowly paid drivers to cheap fares and other business considerations.

But to the people, there is absolutely no excuse for the bus operators to compromise on the passengers’ safety as well as the safety of other road users.

I also do not see the correlation between low pay and reckless driving. The drivers must bear in mind that their own life is also at stake.

Well, the errant bus drivers may not realise the risk if and when they are intoxicated or if they are mentally unstable or have serious attitude problems.

So, does this mean bus operators do not check the background of their drivers before employing them nor continue to monitor them as long as they are under their employment?

The high incidence of accidents involving express buses in the country speaks volumes with regard to the bus operators’ priority on passenger safety.

There is certainly the urgent need for the relevant authorities to compel bus operators to take preventive measures.

Besides making them (operators) responsible for their drivers’ behaviour, I think there are also gadgets that can be installed in busses to track their speed.

How about CCTVs (closed circuit television) to see what the drivers are doing; using a mobile phone, smoking or other dangerous acts?

During a conversation with a prominent politician on Tuesday, he said it was time to make it compulsory for operators to install black boxes.

If I remember correctly, there was talk of installing black boxes in express buses long ago to track the speed of the buses.

As usual, there will always be talk of taking steps to prevent an accident after a serious one has taken place. The authorities would sound as if they immediately knew what went wrong.

Time and again, all the talk or proposals on safety would fizzle out as quickly as the accident took place. And a fresh round of such talk will resurface after another accident takes place.

Why is there the lack of will on all those involved in the transportation sector to look into the issue of bus passengers’ safety, seriously?

Every life is equally precious irrespective of the mode of transport they are taking and the price of the fare.

For a start, it will be good for the relevant authorities and decision makers of bus companies to disguise as passengers and take the bus to have a feel of what it is like travelling on an express bus.

They must also go on many trips; different destinations and times in this fact-finding mission if they are serious about revamping the industry for the better.

They must have a feel of the actual situation or problems, acknowledge them and take the necessary actions to overcome them.

Well, I wonder whether they dare to take the express buses in the first place after seeing so many horrific accidents.

It was not long ago when the Road Transport Department planted their officers in express buses during one festive season to nab errant bus drivers on the spot.

It may not be a bad idea to do that all the while to tell the drivers and bus companies alike that they are being watched. That’s not all.

The authorities should make public the names of errant drivers and bus companies involved for the people to decide whether to travel on buses from such companies anymore.

Tags / Keywords: Northern Region , Family Community , perak , comment , ipoh , travel


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