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Bus carnage: Did guardrails became 'killer rails'?

We refer to the Malaysiakini report Another express bus tragedy, 10 killed .

The Association for the Improvement of Mass-Transit (Transit) is shocked to learn of the express bus accident at the North-South Expressway stretch near Ipoh which killed 10 people. It seems that we have not learnt anything from the past.

This accident shares a striking similarity with that of he Rawang express bus accident which happened eight months ago.

Both involved double-decker express buses driven by fatigued drivers with previous traffic offences during the early wee hours, and all but one of the fatalities were recorded on the lower deck on the side of the bus which had been ripped off like an opened sardine can by the piercing impact of the rigid, sharp edges of the metal guardrail barriers of the North-South Expressway.

Transit calls upon the accountable parties to start taking action to prevent such horrible accidents from happening again. Our hearts and prayers go out to those who lost their lives or were injured as a result of this senseless tragedy. Every time this has happened, and every time we respond to tragedies like this, we always hope that it will be the last time.

Sadly, the tragedies never seem to end. Careless driving, poorly-designed roads and unsafe buses run by profit-making bus operators are causing carnage on our roads.

The CVLB and the Road Transport Department must explain to the public why this express bus operator was allowed to sustain the employment of a driver with previous traffic violations. The Lembaga Lebuhraya Malaysia (LLM) and Plus should be taken to task for failing to ensure the efficacy of the current vehicle restraint systems on their expressways even after the problematic findings were made to public by the Malaysian Institute Of Road Safety Research (Miros).

The finding showed of the Rawang express bus accident showed that the lower deck passenger deaths were attributed to decapitation and caused by improper guardrail installation by Plus Expressway.

Puspakom has a lot to answer for on why express buses with unsafe chassis structure are allowed to cruise on our highways. The worst-ever express bus accident in Bukit Gantang which happened two years ago should have sparked off enough political will to throw unsafe buses out of the road.

The guardrail would have not intruded into the inside of the bus if the contact impact could have been resisted by the strong and stiff structure of the bus chassis at the right level of height.

Transit wants the government to force the accountable parties to comply with international safety standards on allowing the construction of express bus chassis and highway crash barriers. The Road Transport Department must be made accountable for periodical background checks on licensed express bus drivers before the permits for express bus operators can be continued.

The LLM must work with Miros in ensuring our expressways’ safety barriers are very effective in reducing the severity of crashes when passenger vehicles and even trucks impact with them.

Instead of merely offering discounts during the wee hours, Plus as a good corporate citizen should replace all dangerous metal guardrails with safer and properly-installed wire rope barriers.

The writer acts for Transit.

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