Why P.M. Tuilaepa is correct about reckless bus drivers

A story titled “Govt. considers life in jail for reckless bus drivers” published on the pages of this newspaper last week certainly got the attention. Understandably so.

Life in jail sentences are normally reserved for murderers and the like. And here we are being told in no uncertain terms that the Government is considering dishing out the same punishment to “reckless bus drivers.”

The warning came from none other than the Minister of Police, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, who has also been lording over the decision making of this country for the past 20 years.

Over the years, the Prime Minister said the number of incidents, where lives of members of the public have been placed at risk due to the recklessness of bus drivers, has increased. He is right. Not a year goes by without a tragedy where bus crashes kill many innocent people.

The latest example was a bus crash at Auala. No one was killed but photos of the bus after the crash indicate that it could have easily been tragic. More than 20 students were hospitalised.

The crash has since been blamed on speeding and recklessness. Believe it or not, there were more than 60 passengers on a bus that should only have been allowed to transport 33 people.

With that sort of information at hand, the Prime Minister has had enough, he is fed up. Who wouldn’t?

“We have been talking about the wooden buses on numerous occasions," he said. "It appears the structure of the wooden buses are being questioned and yet it is the driver that operates the bus."

Tuilaepa suggested that a tougher penalty might get the bus drivers to be more careful.

“The penalty will be life in jail,” he said.

“The Government has had enough of these bus drivers acting stupid on the road. And the bus owner will receive a harsher penalty than the driver.”

Well it’s hard to blame Prime Minister Tuilaepa for being angry.

As we’ve said before, this country has lost far too many lives over the years due to the recklessness of some of these drivers.

Any responsible leader cannot ignore it. How can they ignore it when the issue is in our faces all the time?

Come to think of it, our nation’s threshold to tolerate irresponsible bus – and to an extent taxi drivers - is intriguing. We put up with them everyday on the road and even on occasions where their stupidity costs lives, it seems that it has become the norm for us to accept that this is the reality in Samoa.

But it’s not normal. We cannot continue down this path forever.

How many times have you experienced a near accident simply because a bus or a taxi suddenly stops right smack in the middle of the road without any indication whatsoever?

How many times do we see buses whistling by with overloaded passenger numbers, including people hanging from the door and windows?

Each and everyone of us has a story to tell about our experiences.

But try asking the children who have lost a father, mother due to a reckless bus driver? Try asking a mother or a father who has lost a son or daughter due to these bus drivers?

We cannot ignore this issue and pretend it is normal.

Ladies and gentlemen, we accept that the suggestion by the Prime Minister about life in jail for reckless bus drivers is extreme. But the point has been made that the Government is taking this issue seriously and that is comforting.

Why does it matter? Why should we care?

We are talking about lives, precious innocent lives. We don’t just let anyone fly a plane with hundreds of people on board, why can’t we think along the same lines when it comes to bus drivers?

Hundreds of ordinary Samoans depend on these drivers everyday. The least the Government can do is to ensure those drivers understand and take responsibility for what they are doing?

Looking at some of the past crashes where lives were lost, the question is, could they have been prevented? The answer is an emphatic yes.

But nothing will change unless the Government – and Prime Minister Tuilaepa – start to walk the talk when it comes to taking action against these reckless bus drivers on the road.

Perhaps they can start small. Why don’t they fine the bus drivers who feel they can stop anywhere, blocking the road and putting the lives of other motorists at risk? Teach them to use the bus stops, isn’t that why they were built in the first place?

Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

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