Bus accidents on the rise; authorities plan to leash bad drivers
Bus accidents continue to rise, with 20 people suffering injuries rushed to the Warakapola Base Hospital and Kegalle Teaching Hospital on Friday after a bus collided with a lorry in Warakapola on the Colombo-Kandy road. On Wednesday, 15 passengers were admitted to the Eheliyagoda Hospital after their bus suffered brake failure and, veering off the road, hit a sand mound in Idamgoda, Eheliyagoda.
In Kekirawa last week, 18 schoolchildren were taken to hospital with injuries after their bus crashed into a tree, and a 22-year-old man was killed when a bus hit his bike near an entry point to the Southern Expressway. There were a number of reports last month of private buses trying to overtake Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) buses without any regard for safety.In one instance, a private bus plying from Suriyawewa to Colombo hit a SLTB bus and veered off the road on the Ratnapura-Pelmadulla main road. The injured from both buses were rushed to the Ratnapura Provincial General Hospital.
Police said a speeding private bus from Colombo to Maduru Oya hit an SLTB bus, killing one and injuring 68 persons.Last December, a six-year-old boy was killed when a private bus collided with an SLTB bus in Thihagoda, Matara. Another eight persons were admitted to the Matara General Hospital.There are about 23,000 buses in the country, 18,000 of them in private service.
A new law is expected in two months that would institute a separate category for driving licences for passenger transport.“Buses, three-wheelers, passenger transport vans and other vehicles will come under this category,” said Motor Traffic Commissioner General S.H. Harischandra.“We have received the draft document from the Legal Draftsman with the proposed changes. Once passed, a driver has to renew the licence every four years and undergo training.”
Drivers obtaining a passenger transport driver’s licence will have to undertake compulsory training on first aid, technical areas and ethics.There were 2184 accidents involving private buses between January and October 2013, 186 of them resulting in fatalities.National Transport Commission (NTC) head Roshan Gunewardena said the public could make complaints about bus drivers and conductors on the NTC’s 24-hour hotline number, 1955.
“Disciplinary action can be taken against such drivers and conductors following inquiries,” he said. “The NTC is also conducting training programmes with traffic police. They are being shown videos of problem driving taken with CCTV cameras.” Mr. Gunewardena said in order to promote responsible driving the NTC was planning to grant awards to good drivers nominated by the public as well as establish welfare facilities for drivers, conductors and their families.