Rolling deathtrapsThe government’s attention to improving the country’s culture of safety hasn’t produced much in the way of results. A bus that crashed into a concrete guard rail on a highway burst into flames, killing 10 passengers. The bus driver had a record of 12 traffic violations and was the first to flee from the bus, according to surviving passengers. The government had tightened supervision of buses after an accident involving a dozing driver caused 41 casualties in July. But nothing it did prevented another major fatal bus accident.
The driver behind the wheel was clearly unqualified, having a record of violating major traffic rules including drunk driving and driving without a permit. The employer, however, did not thoroughly vet the driver and doesn’t seem to have even questioned his credentials. The bus operator is liable for the loss lives because of its insensitivity to safety and poor employment guidelines.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport announced that it will fix the law governing passenger motor vehicles to levy tougher penalties on people causing accidents and restricting the hiring of drivers with traffic violations on their records. The government should clarify the guidelines to ensure that anyone with the potential to put public safety at risk does not get his hands on a steering wheel.
Safety rules ensuring that safety kits are on buses and emergency escape doors work must be enforced. Safety training for drivers also must be emphasized. The latest bus crash involved more fatalities because there was no emergency exit on the bus and passengers could not find emergency hammers to smash open windows to escape. The current regulation requires buses with more than 16 seats to have exits at the rear of the vehicle. But bus operators have not bothered because of a clause that says there is no need for one if the bus is fitted with tempered glass. Such exemptions must be immediately withdrawn. But the ministry only says it will make installing an emergency hatch compulsory in the future.
In advanced countries, shuttle buses must have emergency exits and escape hatches. Lives should not be put at risk. Authorities should do all they can to toughen the laws on bus operators.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 17, Page 30