Tough to beat buses' blind spots

SINGAPORE - As a bus driver, Mr Lim Yong Long, diligently checks his side mirrors before driving off.

But this is not enough to minimise accidents as buses have blind spots, said the owner of XingSheng Transport Services.

Because of this, commuters also need to be more alert and avoid being too close to the bus, Mr Lim, 55, added.

Blind spot mirrors were brought up in court on Monday, during a coroner's inquiry into the death of a three-year-old boy.

Last December, Kryshan Nirmal Kumar was run down by a bus at a cemetery off Old Choa Chu Kang Road. The little boy was standing within the blind spot of the bus, one of the factors State Coroner Marvin Bay attributed the accident to.

He suggested for a review of the forward visibility of large passenger vehicles, in particular, the design and placement of blind spot mirrors.

But Mr Lim, who has 15 years of driving experience under his belt, feels that the problem also lies with commuters' lack of awareness of their surroundings.


He said: "Parents have a responsibility to hold their children close.

"Sometimes bus drivers are blamed because the vehicles they drive are bigger than the victim."

Bus driver Ng Kim Hock, 52, agreed.

Mr Ng, who owns K. H. Ng Bus Transport Service, said of blind spots: "It is impossible to prevent accidents 100 per cent unless you have more advanced technology, like putting sensors on wheels to detect people near the bus.

"We can do our due diligence by checking our side mirrors, but what if a child runs to the left side after we have checked that side and are looking to our right?

"It all happens within seconds."

He added: "If we keep looking left and right trying to check for kids, we won't be able to drive ahead."

Heavy vehicle driver Jasman Jili, who also has a bus licence, said he eliminates the blind spot problem by attaching a round mirror on the left side mirror on his trailer.

This allows him to see the front of the trailer clearly, cutting down on accidents, he said.

Safety driving expert Gerard Pereira approved of the use of such blind spot mirrors.

Pointing out that most new buses are now fitted with such mirrors, he said: "Blind spots will always be there, be it a saloon car, a van or a bus.

"The bigger the vehicle, the more there is danger."

Bus drivers are now trained to look at blind spots and mirrors, but Mr Pereira encouraged drivers to "go the extra mile".

"If the driver can take a minute, walk to the back of the bus to make sure that all passengers have alighted, then get down (from) the bus to make sure that the coast is clear, fatal accidents under unforeseen circumstances could be avoided," he said.

Triple distraction led to tragedy

Kryshan Nirmal Kumar, three, was run down by a private bus when he attended a funeral with his family last December.

The fatal accident happened when bus driver Ng Yam Bak, 48, who had ferried the relatives to a Christian cemetery off Old Choa Chu Kang Road, drove off, thinking there was no one in front of the bus.

Kryshan had been standing near the front of the bus, while his mother, Madam Jaiyesthri Ramasamy, 30, had squatted down to tie her older son's shoelaces.

It was revealed during the coroner's inquiry that Mr Ng's attention had been on another boy shouting at him and running down the bus aisle as he drove off.

Sharing his findings on Monday, State Coroner Marvin Bay called the death "a tragic confluence of several events all occurring at the same time".

This article was first published on June 25, 2014.
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