Public safety should come firstBy - 27 December 2016 @ 11:00 AM
PASSENGERS were thrown forward as the bus careened down a slope and ran smack into a retaining wall.
A survivor’s impact was broken by other passengers whom he had landed on.
Fourteen died, 13 at the scene and one on the way to hospital; 16 others were injured.
The bus from Johor Baru to Kuala Lumpur recently crashed in Pagoh, Johor, in the wee hours of the morning.
And yet, despite the obvious need for passengers to be properly harnessed to their seats in this instance, at least, the authorities are saying that making seat belts mandatory in express buses is a matter still under discussion!
The worst fatal crash, however, happened in 2013 when 37 passengers died and 16 were injured on the way down from Genting Highlands.
In the first seven months alone following the Genting tragedy, there were 12 accidents causing 13 deaths and many injuries.
There was even a report by an independent advisory panel on the Genting Highlands crash with 51 recommendations made.
Primary among them was the setting up of a National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) to “advise, investigate, analyse and report” to the transport minister.
Three years on and another major, needless catastrophe, the chairman of the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety is still urging that the NTSB be set up. Of course, the blasé attitude of those responsible, who can quite nonchalantly quip that seat belts are a matter still being discussed, makes the slow progress of implementing the recommendations of the report unsurprising.
As usual, after the event, the public is told that the operator has outstanding summonses.
The same was true with the Genting accident. The knee-jerk reaction is to suspend operations. A bit too late really. Innocent lives have been lost.
Why were the summonses not followed up immediately? Surely, if the Road Transport Department is on the ball, then because this involves public transportation, whatever transgression caused, the summons to be issued must be immediately rectified.
The Genting crash report identified systemic problems, including roads that do not conform to safety standards.
Of course, poor maintenance of the bus itself was a problem. Even then, to shut down the operator appeared to be a conundrum for the then acting transport minister. To be held to ransom on account of shortage of operators is dangerous when they are knowingly negligent.
Safety of passengers is paramount, which means operators must be held to account when things go wrong.
For example, who compensates the victims? Or are they compensated at all? Much is being said about developing a fully integrated, efficient public transport system for the country.
Are operators fully insured to bear liabilities? Or is it all being run on a shoestring budget by a small family operation out of their home or a miserable makeshift office?
Malaysia requires a radical mindset transformation, where standards are set in stone, especially where public safety is concerned.
Operating licences with uncompromising safety regulations are sorely needed, and where deaths caused by negligence is manslaughter.