BMTA needs to boost safety for bus passengers

opinion November 05, 2012 00:00

By The Nation

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Better, careful drivers will encourage more people to use public buses


Bangkokians who use public buses risk their lives every day on the road. Statistics from the Consumer Protection Foundation show there were more than 900 accidents involving public buses in 2011.
The casualties of careless drivers were 6 people killed last year and 44 people injured. There were also around 4,000 complaints over the same period through the Department of Land Transport’s 1584 hotline.
The complaints ranged from public bus drivers failing to stop the bus to pick up or let off passengers at bus stations, careless and dangerous driving, impolite manners by the bus crew, failing to take care of passengers’ safety, and drivers forcing passengers to get off the bus before their destination.
The Foundation’s latest statistics were unfortunate, as they ran counter to a desirable campaign to encourage people to use public transport. If passengers feel unsafe on public transport, they will try to use their own vehicles.
But even without this information, passengers have already felt unhappy with the quality of buses in Bangkok. There are many news reports about accidents involving careless drivers. Many have not even passed tests to ensure that they are qualified to be responsible for lives of hundreds of people who used public buses every day.
According to a Traffic Police report, the top four offences committed by bus drivers from 2003 to 2006 were, firstly, harmful emissions such as smoke and dust particles at a level higher than acceptable standards; secondly, drivers who refuse to stop to pick up passengers at bus stations; third, bus drivers who violate traffic rules; and fourth, driving vehicles that are poorly maintained and not of a standard suitable for public use. 
The authorities have no excuse to let passengers risk their lives every day because of bad service. The BMTA has subcontracted many public bus routes to private operators, yet the organisation still runs a massive loss every year. Therefore, the BMTA has no excuse to offer poor service to passengers.
The BMTA and Ministry of Transport have to do a better job supervising and monitoring public buses. They should be setting standards for drivers to ensure the public is in safe hands when they have to commute by bus.
In addition, the authorities must ensure that private bus operators maintain the quality of vehicles sufficiently and constantly. Many public buses release hazardous smoke because their engines have never been checked or cleaned. 
We see many “broken” public buses parked in the middle of the road. This not only risks the lives of passengers but also bystanders and other drivers on the road.
In fact, the use of public transport should be promoted because it would help save energy. Thailand is a net importer of fuel. In addition, the promotion of public transport should help curb pollution. If passengers turn to public buses, they would reduce the number of vehicles and the amount of emissions.
Unfortunately, public transport bosses don’t always provide a safe means for people to commute in regularly.