Bus drivers tell their story

The crash at Tiavi last month where a man was killed, leaving many more injured once again raised the question about the safety of buses in Samoa.

Some suggested that it was perhaps time for the famous wooden buses to be done away with once and for all. Others disagreed.

On the streets, apart from the fact the buses attract attention by their striking appearances, the one question that preys on the minds of its many passengers is the one about safety. 

With the lack of seatbelts, the particularly small amount of handgrips and the problem of highly overloaded busses, the question of safety is a relevant one.

But it’s not always the bus drivers’ fault.

For driver Gaogo Isaia, who daily steers a bus from Apia’s flea market to Vaivase/Moataa the problem, is caused by the passengers themselves rather than by the drivers. 

“Some people are very picky,” he said. “They prefer the new buses and reject the old ones. That’s why most of the times a lot of buses are overcrowded while others almost have no passengers at all.”

He criticised the way responsibility is handled in his business. 

“As drivers, we are responsible for almost everything, but we also have to keep an eye on the road at the same time. There are times when I have to tell people that they can’t enter my bus, simply because it already is fully loaded.”

“I know that others simply keep on letting passengers enter the buses despite of the fact that there is no space left. They do it because of the money they make with more passengers.”

In the public transportation business, the streets seem to be paved with gold - until concerns about safety are brought up for discussion. 

“There is no way in which people would survive an accident when the bus is as overcrowded as it is when there are people hanging from the doors,” Mr. Isaia said. 

“Not a single passenger would stay alive if something happens at that stage.”

His colleague Alex Sia, who drives a bus from town to Aele/Faleula and back, shares the same opinion. 

Sia’s vehicle, a “classic” wooden Samoan bus, sometimes is overcrowded. 

A problem, which the driver hardly is able to overcome as it is caused by the misbehaviour of the passengers. 

“People just keep getting on [the bus] and quite often I have to urge them to make way or even have to reject them. Of course some people are getting mad at me, but what should I do?” 

“If there’s no space left to guarantee safety for every passenger, then they have to accept it.” From the bus driver’s point of view, the safety of his passengers is not put at risk by the driver himself. 

“We work from 8 o’clock in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. There’s enough time for a break in between to rest for us and to make sure that we can stay focussed while driving.”

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