Thursday, November 26, 2015   

Leave nothing to chance on accidents

Mary Ma

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The bus crash that killed three and injured 56 on a steep slope in Shau Kei Wan this week was horrific.

It seems that Chai Wan Road is cursed.

For in December 1982, a cement truck crashed down the slope and slammed onto the pavement, killing four people and injuring 13.

In November 1992, a double-decker bus lost control on the road and plowed onto the pedestrian walkway. The driver died and 31 passengers were hurt.

So this Monday's tragedy may make it tempting for some to say that those years ending with a "2" are ominous for Chai Wan Road, but that's only superstition.

Instead, a serious attempt should be made to understand the health condition of the 57-year-old bus driver involved in the latest accident.


Such a review should not only focus on Monday's accident, but those that happened in the past as well.

For it seems more drivers are blacking out on the road than ever before.

In the latest accident, the New World First Bus driver passed out for more than 10 seconds behind the wheel.

He has not been the only one.

In a few of the cases, the luck of the drivers held out, for they were able to stop the vehicles before collapsing.

In November 2011, a cabbie suffered a heart attack, but managed to pull the taxi to the roadside before any serious consequences resulted.

But in most other cases, luck was simply absent.

On June 3, a KMB driver lost consciousness and crashed his vehicle into a Tuen Mun bus stop, killing one and injuring five. The driver was arrested.

On September 19, a taxi driver with a history of epilepsy had a seizure and lost control of the vehicle for 20 meters, causing a five-car pileup. Three people were injured.

Each case was probed by police as separate, isolated incidents.

Has there been any attempt to compare the various investigation results to determine if there were any common denominators?

As far as the public knows, there were none.

However, are government officials aware that the number of casualties in such accidents can end up being more disastrous than the ferry tragedy off Lamma Island on October 1?

It's high time a commission of inquiry is set up to review accidents collectively - whether on land or at sea - that would likely uncover causes that no isolated probe can.

Stakeholders should not only be road users, but all public transport firms, including ferries and railways, as well.

The five franchised bus companies employ about 12,000 drivers - 44 percent of them 50 years of age or older.

Their employers arrange for them to undergo annual health checkups. For those 60 or older, a cardiovascular check is also required.

But, unfortunately, regular health checks are not effective in discovering hidden illnesses early.

Relying on the drivers themselves to declare their health conditions is also not a solution.

A comprehensive inquiry is necessary and vital.

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