Two deaths too many in Savai’i. Time to enforce road rules

In June this year a bus with passengers crashed in Savai’i with eyewitnesses saying it rolled over multiple times, resulting in over 20 of its passengers getting hospitalised. 

Most of the passengers were students at the Itu Asau College and were travelling from Falelima to Asau when the accident happened. 

Pictures posted on social media showed villagers rushing to the crash scene to rescue the passengers, who were trapped in the bus, with its roof removed by the impact of the crash.

The passengers – most of them students with some of their college teachers – were thankful their injuries were not serious and more importantly no lives were lost during the crash. An Auala villager told this newspaper that the bus was speeding and the driver lost control, which led to the crash.

Pictures posted on Facebook – which this newspaper got to use with the story – showed how unsafe and risky this world-famous Samoan public buses are to the travelling public. The bus’ roof was smashed into splinters upon landing on the side of the road after rolling a couple of times, with the passenger seats still intact screwed to the floor, but now exposed after the roof was removed.

Fast forward by two months and another vehicle mishap in Savai’i, though this time the crash in Falelima claimed two lives. 

The Police in Savai’i said the crash occurred last Friday night between 8.00pm and 9.00pm with both the driver and the passengers losing their lives.

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“Both of the drivers died as a result of the traffic incident and it is suspected that alcohol was a major factor," said Sala’a Sale Sala’a, who is the Commanding Officer of the Savai’i Police outpost. “The two cars had passengers and both were admitted into the hospital.They suffered severe injuries and it’s unclear whether they have been transferred to the national hospital in Motootua."

Two traffic accidents in Savai’i in the space of two months with the recent one having fatalities. It appears something is amiss on the big island when it comes to the enforcement of local traffic laws. 

A crash two months ago involving a public bus left over 20 passengers injured and another one recently had two fatalities. Surely these tragic developments should compel someone to ask if Samoa’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) is doing its work on the big island? What about the Police? Aren't they responsible for monitoring traffic infringements and charging (and prosecuting) the offenders? Or is it a case of out-of-sight out-of-mind for both the LTA and the Police in Savai’i? Or did the decision by the Government to transfer the traffic infringement powers back to the Police lead to confusion with the two State agencies and therefore the absence of monitoring and random checks on vehicle quality and drivers?

Motorists and pedestrians alike in Savai’i should start asking questions of the authorities on road rules and their enforcement, which should also serve as a deterrence against reckless driving and to avoid more injuries and deaths.

Interestingly, prior to the Ministry of Police announcing Cabinet’s decision to remove traffic enforcement powers from the LTA and handing it back to them, the LTA traffic division appeared to be a well oiled machine. 

They set up road blocks within city limits and the rural communities, and even deployed traffic officers armed with speed cameras and breathalyzers, ensuring that there was visibility of traffic law enforcement on Samoa’s roads. Their proactiveness in enforcing the laws ensured motorists were aware of their presence and the road rules that they had to abide by.

But with Police investigations still underway into the fatal crash in Savai’i last Friday that claimed two lives and the bus crash that saw over 20 passengers get hospitalised, it would be sometime before the public gets to know what really happened on those roads in the backwaters of Savai’i. 

We hope the delay in the transfer of traffic enforcement powers from the LTA to the Police is not creating gaps in terms of enforcement of the law, thus exposing pedestrians and motorists in Savai’i to unnecessary risks.

Scheduled on-the-road tests of all buses that provide public transport services in both Upolu and Savai’i will also go a long way in assuring the public that the authorities are serious about road rules and drivers and their employers comply with the law.

Have a lovely Wednesday Samoa and God bless.

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