Safety of the public paramount

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

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. 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? 

And have you noticed how they have become such an inconvenience in the crowded Apia township area especially when just about all the parking spaces are taken up by taxies?

These are just some of the things we’ve been struggling with over the years. You will have more to add to the list. These issues need to be addressed.

Why does it matter? Why should we care? 

Well before the Supreme Court last week was a case, which has drawn our attention to this issue. It highlights just how we cannot afford to accept what’s happening as normal. It calls for urgent attention to ensuring that drivers – buses and taxies – are educated and made to feel a lot more responsible about what they do. 

The case we are referring to involves the driver of the Queen Patsy bus, which crashed on Cross Island Road, resulting in the death of one of the passengers.

Convicted and sentenced for charges of negligent driving causing injuries and manslaughter, Fa’asaomoataeao Tausagi has been jailed for four years and three months. He has also been disqualified as a bus driver for eight years.

Now some people might say that the punishment delivered by Supreme Court Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa is sufficient. 

We agree. But that’s not the point. 

The question is, could it have been prevented? And what is the value of one life?

We say this because Justice Tuatagaloa pointed to some extremely disturbing facts about this case that should ring the alarm bells not just for bus owners but also the relevant government authorities.

First the Court heard that the bus was overloaded.

Then there was the element of dangerous driving – which is so typical of some of the bus drivers.

 “The accused tried to overtake a vehicle and saw another vehicle heading towards him which made him swirl on the other side causing the bus to roll over,” the summary of facts reads.

We see this every day on the streets of Samoa.  

But perhaps the worst part was when Justice Tuatagaloa pointed that Tausagi should not have been driving the bus that day.

 “While you were behind the wheel of the bus you didn’t have a license and if your licensed had expired you shouldn’t be driving that bus,” she said. “If only you had done that, nothing like this would happen and no one would die from this.”

We couldn’t agree more with Justice Tuatagaloa who went to say the driver’s actions were negligence and reckless.

“You should bear in mind that you are carrying so many lives in the buses,” she said. “There are 34 lives that you are carrying with you therefore you should not be taking it lightly.

“Maybe it’s because you think that buses are bigger hence why you go fast on the road (le mafaufau) but you don’t take into consideration the lives of the people that you are carrying.

“You also know that when you take the Tiavi route you are going downhill and if only you had control of the breaks while you were going downhill, I’m sure none of this would happen.”

Lastly, Justice Tuatagaloa said: “If there is a message that I want to send to all the bus drivers, bus owners as well as the Land Transport Authority out there during my decision on this case, that is to look at the safety of the passengers. L.T.A. needs to review the licensing of bus drivers and also the warrant of fitness.”

Amen to that. It’s about time. Please.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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