A bus carrying 15 Korean Tourists has crashed on State Highway 1 South of Tokoroa and 15 were injured. For reasons unknown the driver veered off the road around midday. The road conditions were good. The driver and a Tour Guide escaped unharmed.
 
Three passengers have had arms amputated, and another has head injuries. They remain in a critical condition in the major trauma centre of Waikato Hospital, after being airlifted once cut from the wreckage.
Road Safety Educators ‘Candor’ say the crash had several hallmarks of a fatigue related or an impaired driving type crash. It was warm, around midday and the vehicle veered left which can happen if a driver falls asleep.
 
‘Such crashes are fairly regular here due to an unregulated transport environment. We’ve failed to keep up with the times, as highways are undivided and packed with drowsies and druggies’ said Spokesperson Ed Radley of Candor Trust this afternoon.
 
Land Transport New Zealand has ignored recent appeals from Candor Trust to address critical bus safety issues. Trust members say they are relieved that multiple deaths were not the order of the day.
It is sad to see tourists affected by our road safety mess, injury crashes, in fact crashes full stop have skyrocketed over the last 5 years under the failed speed reduction policy.
We highlighted big issues like the 5 yearly medicals for bus drivers to LTNZ which add to the probability of crashes, but they just fobbed saying seatbelts may be a good idea.
 
It was only last November the Trust wrote to Land Transport NZ seeking an urgent review of passenger safety. Members then feared a repeat of the 2005 collision between a bus and truck collision which took nine lives near Morrinsville, also in the Waikato region.
Particularly because in October and not far from there (in Auckland), there was yet another ‘close shave’ on the buses – a suspicious school bus crash that injured 2 dozen students
The driver in the Auckland crash, also inexplicable like the crash today’s disaster, passed a breathalyser, but was not drug tested despite having no recall of events.
 
‘World record making lax regulation around impaired driving by H/T and passenger class license holders in New Zealand must take it’s toll. A variety of alternate data sources strongly point to this, yet LTNZ is flatly ignoring the issue.’
 
While drug and alcohol testing will often be left out at major crash investigations involving commercial vehicles, it is also very unwisely not required to occur as part of the medical examination administered before a passenger license endorsements may be granted.
‘This defies all logic and really makes the joke medical clearance even more of a token hoop jumping exercise’ say Candor. It is clearly detrimental to the interests of road safety that drivers at the helm of large vehicles are immune from testing for substance abuse. At all junctures.
That’s the status quo whether they are just being hired, or even if they have perhaps just caused a horror smash, and may be guilty of reckless homicide (which would then be concealed).
The Breathalyzer can be skipped if the cop makes a snap judgment that there are no grounds for suspicion and testing for drug abuse, the commoner culprit, does not occur because no legal powers exist to enable Police Officers to do this.
It is grating for road safety workers to hear that the mother of a pedestrian killed in Christchurch lately complained in the Coroners Court she’d never know if the trucker that hit her son was under the influence. He wasn’t even breathalysed.
‘Such omissions have a cumulative effect and make for higher jeopardy on the road – it appears a deal has been struck with the Industry to privilege truckers over other motorists who would always at least be breathalysed.’
‘Yet elsewhere higher not lower standards are applied to professional drivers – they may not drive if using methadone for example’.
In late January a paying passenger reported by cell phone that a bus driver in Christchurch was driving erratically and may have been in an unfit state. Three police officers met the bus when it stopped at the Bus Exchange to administer a breath test.
This showed some alcohol use but he was not over the legal limit. The man was stood down for the rest of the day. But Candor say that 3 Police in attendance should have been able to conduct a full investigation of such a serious matter, by also drug testing.
 
‘Letting issues like this questionable bus driver slide, and not ensuring truckers are drug free is setting up situations where buses and trucks may collide with each other or mow down any of us whether we travel on foot, cycle or car’.
 
‘The blame for New Zealand’s trend toward ultra high risk crashes on major highways sits squarely on the shoulders of those who so poorly regulate our transport system – this is a third world deal’.
 
Candor Trust say they hope Police will endeavor this time to identify all significant factors in their investigation of the latest horrifying melee, ‘in the interests of future prevention’.
 
‘The drivers involved should be tested for intoxicant substances – so that the full facts may be known in this case. The wounded Koreans must be reassured the correct charges will be likely, given that any might be found to be appropriate’ said Mr Radley.

[Edited by Simon – Formatting and spelling]

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