I REFER to the report “Bus driver claims trial to drug abuse charge” (The Star, April 17).
The driver of the double-decker express bus which crashed in Bentong on Saturday resulted in three deaths.
He was charged under Section 15(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act and is liable to be jailed for up to two years or fined a maximum of RM5,000 or both, if found guilty.
However, the conviction would free the insurer of the bus from having to pay for damage claims to the vehicle or compensation to the injured passengers.
It is normal for passengers injured in public service vehicles, such as buses and taxis, to sue both the driver and the vehicle owner when no third parties are involved in the accident, and such compensation is paid by the insurer, as awarded by the courts or settled out of court.
It is clearly stated in every motor insurance policy that the driver should not be operating the vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol and there would be no insurance cover if found to be so.
Nevertheless, this should not stop aggrieved passengers of the ill-fated bus to seek adequate compensation by filing a civil suit and it does not matter whether the public liability insurance of the company covers such claims.
But for many other road accident victims, it would be a sheer waste of time and money filing a civil suit when the defendants are not insured and have no means to pay.
For example, victims injured by any of the 3.35 million motorcyclists riding without licences will not be able to make third party claims even if the motorcycles are insured.
Those injured in a taxi, when the driver was high on drugs or alcohol, in accidents that involve no other parties, would have to sue the driver and vehicle owner.
But half of the taxis are individually-owned and few taxi drivers would have adequate cash or assets to make amends.
Even when the vehicles are owned by companies, they may not be held liable if it can be proven that they are not taxi operators but had merely facilitated in providing the taxis under a rental-purchase scheme.
But there could be no excuse for bus companies as they would have to be fully responsible, regardless of the type of employment scheme offered to their drivers.
As such, it would be prudent for them to ensure that their public liability insurance would kick in when the motor insurance passenger liability cover is invalidated, otherwise they could be wiped out by massive claims.
However, it is better to prevent such tragedies. All they have to do, especially express bus operators, is to screen their drivers for drugs or alcohol abuse, at least once every quarterly.
It is common knowledge that a large number of bus and taxi drivers have their annual Public Service Vehicle licences renewed using forged medical certificates.
Thousands of commercial drivers would fail if they underwent mental and physical tests. Until detected and rehabilitated, they are virtually time bombs on our roads.
Sadly, the carnage will continue as long as express bus operators and the authorities do not rise above the current level of apathy on road safety.