(Photo Source: Google)
“I hope you all have recognized us from our uniforms”
Remaining in my seat, I looked up and there stood two young traffic officers, in their unmistakable blue uniforms, at the entrance of our Wi-Fi enabled night coach heading to Kathmandu from Birgunj. The bus had left Ghantaghar Chowk, Birgunj just minutes ago. It was around 8:25 pm and I was eagerly hoping to reach Hetauda soon to breathe some cold air to avoid blistering heat (even after the sunsets, no kidding!) of Birgunj.
The bus was well occupied with passengers except for few rows in the back. Everyone was surprised by the resounding voice of the traffic police as we thought it was just one of those regular security checks and not much.
“As per routine, we performed an alcohol check on your driver and it came out positive. Do you want to ride on a bus which is driven by a drunk driver?”
The news from the officer took all of us by surprise. Passengers started looking at each other in disbelief and some, including me, were even shaking their heads in negative, searching for words to respond to the traffic officers. The recent killings of dozens of people in Kavre and Chitwan bus accidents were fresh in our memories.
I don’t know why but I started visualizing those tragic news and videos in my head. It was clear from the silence and soft murmur of the passengers that nobody wanted the drunk driver.
“We are taking your driver into our custody for now. The owner of your bus-transportation service will have to send another driver. It might take another hour or so. Please be patient. It is only for your safety”
After those brief statements, the two officers left the bus along with the driver while the bus conductor followed them anxiously. There was no point in sitting inside the bus now since we were already sweating excessively. One by one almost everyone was out of the bus which was standing by the road, in the middle of almost nowhere.
Although I was sad that Hetauda will be delayed by another hour, I sighed in relief thinking that probably our bus just averted being in the headlines of tomorrow’s news for all the bad reasons.
We boarded the bus again after around an hour. On the way to my seat, I noticed that the new driver looked quite young and he, sitting on driver’s seat, was familiarizing and checking all the driving gears in his cabin. Obviously he was not driving his usual vehicle. I was worried about the new driver’s driving skills when someone behind me whispered that it was the new driver’s third similar trip in this week alone, surprisingly for the same reason. Surprised! But another sigh of relief!!
When the new driver cranked the engine and passengers were seated, the traffic officer reappeared inside the bus.
“You got a new driver and he will be driving you to your destination” he said, smiling a bit this time.
All of a sudden I asked “Did you do the alcohol check on him as well?”
“Of course, he is clean. You all have a safe journey now!” he said amusingly and got off the bus.
To make the Story Short, we safely made it to Kathmandu the following morning:)
Breathing test of bus drivers is one good measure to prevent road accidents in this country. There are many other areas which need sincere attention such as, improving roads, policies, rules, regulations, management, system, administration, awareness and last but not the least ‘SAFETY ATTITUDE’ of all the stakeholders involved, including government, politicians, authorities, administrators, bus-managers, concerned transport committees, drivers and even passengers.
It’s high time now we stopped playing blame-game coz above all Safety Matters and it must be the number one priority of everyone.
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