Sunday, February 06, 2011

Slow and dangerous.

I often ask myself this question, is there such a thing as "slow and dangerous"? On 6 Feb, 2011, I finally witnessed it first hand.

I was on the 707 Travel Group Bus from Singapore to KL and it was a horrifying experience. I bought the tickets from Great Excursion Travel Pte Ltd for a 9am bus from Golden Mile Complex to Times Square KL. The bus that was allocated was an old bus with a cracked windshield, WRW6566. upon entering the bus, it felt messy, and unkept.

Apart being 1 hour late, we left Singapore at about 10am, the "slowness" was not as apparent as buses are only allowed to travel 60km/h in Singapore. However in Malaysia, I suddenly realized that everyone was over taking our bus, and when I looked over at the speedometer of the bus, I realized that it was broken.

In the first 3 hours of the bus ride, I've seen the bus weave between lanes, without signaling and often when there was no cars around. This was because the drive was on the phone half of the time and smoking a cigarette. On one occasion, he nearly hit a motorist, but narrowly escaped.

Then there was a break and the bus stopped for lunch at Yong Peng (It took about 2.5 hours to get there). Again, the break took longer than expected, and we left Yong Peng after 1:30pm, and traveled north towards KL. Before we left, I asked the driver not to chat on the phone or smoke as he nearly hit a motorist and he nodded in acknowledgment.

10 minutes into the drive, he was on his phone again. This time, the bus had problems shifting and I could feel that there may be problems with the brakes as the driver was keeping a very far distance between cars, and when the other cars braked, he needed that distance to stop in time.

The journey was a lot more exciting than it should as Malaysian cars enjoy switching lanes and cutting in front of the bus which was also swerving lane to lane, and getting overtaken by everyone. At times, the drive was getting honked at as he was not keeping to his lane while he was distracted by snacks, drinks, his cell phone or smoking.

I've constantly taken similar buses from other providers and even during the "peak-est" of holidays, the trip would have taken 6 hours. But it is now 8 hours into the bus, and I'm still on it. The ride was slow, and the constant weaving in traffic by the distracted slow driver still managed to make it more dangerous than necessary.

I could understand how fatal accidents could happen when these tour operators seem to hire very distracted drivers who enjoy chatting on the phones without a headset, while smoking a cigarette. I hope something could be done before any loss of life, but this seldom happen as safety seemed to be a secondary concern behind profits in many of the tour operators.

-- Robin Low

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