Bus driver was so drunk he slept at the wheel, missed bus stops, and almost crashed the bus

Nagibullah Raja Saleem, 27, pleaded guilty to one count each of driving in a rash manner, drink-driving, and using a mobile communication device while the bus was moving.
Nagibullah Raja Saleem, 27, pleaded guilty to one count each of driving in a rash manner, drink-driving, and using a mobile communication device while the bus was moving.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - SBS Transit bus driver Nagibullah Raja Saleem was so drunk that he nodded off at the wheel, missed bus stops, and even veered his vehicle into oncoming traffic, almost crashing into several vehicles.

Some of his alarmed passengers shouted at him at various points in the journey, but he brushed them off in the incident which happened last June.

Nagibullah, 27, even drank vodka from a bottle while driving the bus, having started consuming alcohol before his shift began.

He was so drunk that almost five hours after he stopped driving, his alcohol levels were 2.4 times the legal limit.

Nagibullah pleaded guilty on Wednesday (June 7) to one count each of driving in a rash manner, drink-driving, and using a mobile communication device while the bus was moving.

The court heard that on June 29 last year (2016), some time between 10am and 3pm, Nagibullah drank alcohol before his shift began at 3.30pm.

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage showed that while driving between 4.15pm and 6.15pm, he took six swigs of blackcurrant vodka from a 330ml bottle placed on the left side of the driver's seat.

The two-hour footage showed that as he travelled between Shenton Way and Yio Chu Kang bus terminals, he drove recklessly by beating several red traffic lights, and occasionally dozing off at the wheel. He even swerved multiple times into other lanes or onto the road shoulder.

At different points during the trip, passengers confronted him over his driving.

When he fell asleep at a traffic light, one man asked him why he was not moving despite the light turning green.

One woman said she would report him to the police because he kept falling asleep.

Several other passengers shouted in alarm as he drove dangerously: "Hey! Hey! Hey!"

Nagibullah even missed designated bus stops more than once. For example, at 5.17pm he let passengers alight near a kerb along a bend of Bishan Street 22, rather than at the bus stop.

After reaching Yio Chu Kang terminal, he drove the off-service bus back to Shenton Way terminal.

Footage showed that at a red traffic light at about 5.40pm, he checked his mobile phone with both hands for about 20 seconds. He did not put his hands back on the steering wheel even when the bus started moving forward.

He even picked up a passenger and dropped him soon after.

Once he got to the Shenton Way terminal, he drove the bus against the flow of traffic, almost crashing into an exiting bus, and then he parked his bus at a wrong angle.

The police were called to the terminal just before 9pm, and when they arrived, Staff Sergeant Sritharan Subramaniam found Nagibullah with slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and observed that he smelt of alcohol. He was later arrested.

Nagibullah will return to court for a sentencing on July 5.

For a first conviction of drink driving, he can be jailed for up to six months or fined between $1,000 and $5,000.

For rash driving, he can be jailed for up to six months and/or fined up to $1,000.

For using a mobile communication device while the bus was moving, he can be jailed for up to six months and/or fined up to $1,000.

SBS Transit, in a media statement on Thursday night, said it has tightened protocols following the incident.

Said Ms Tammy Tan, Senior Vice-President of Corporate Communications of SBS Transit: "We do not take the safety of our commuters and fellow road users lightly. In fact, we have zero tolerance for such reckless behaviour and Nagibullah was dismissed from service following the incident.

"In this instance, Nagibullah had declared and was checked to be fit enough to drive for the day when he started his shift in the morning. This is required under our Standard Operating Procedure. As a tightened measure following the incident, we now require our bus captains, who have longer breaks of several hours in between their trips, to complete a second declaration form stating that they are fit to resume their duty. A dedicated staff will also be on duty to verify the state of the bus captain as declared in his or her form."