Bus driver who drank alcohol at the wheel jailed 15 months, disqualified 10 years

Nagibullah Raja Saleem, now 28, was also disqualified from driving for 10 years and fined $1,000.
Nagibullah Raja Saleem, now 28, was also disqualified from driving for 10 years and fined $1,000.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - An SBS Transit bus driver who drank alcohol on the job and even nodded off at the wheel while he was ferrying passengers was sentenced to 15 months' jail on Thursday (July 20).

Nagibullah Raja Saleem, now 28, was also disqualified from driving for 10 years and fined $1,000.

He had earlier 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's lawyer, Mr Richard Siaw, had said in mitigation that his client had shown good conduct before the offence on June 29 last year. 

He was also once featured in a publicity video by the Land Transport Authority. However, he had been suffering from emotional distress on that day. His former girlfriend had been threatening him, after they broke up because of his family's disapproval.

District Judge Kenneth Yap, while noting that Nagibullah was not a habitually bad driver, said that this was no excuse. He added: "It takes one action to create damage or massive loss of lives."

Nagibullah was found with 84 micrograms of alcohol in 100ml of breath. This was more than two times the prescribed limit.

The court heard that he had started drinking alcohol before his shift at the Shenton Way bus terminal at 3.30pm. He later sneaked in a 330ml bottle of blackcurrant vodka, placing it at the left side of the driver's seat.

Closed-circuit television footage showed him taking a total of six sips from the bottle over the 2½ hours he was driving the bus.

Between 4.15pm and 5.37pm, there were multiple passengers on board when he was travelling from Shenton Way to Yio Chu Kang bus terminal, a distance of about 22km.

A few of them had confronted him when he beat the red light at several traffic junctions and even fell asleep at the wheel.

He continued to drive dangerously while he was returning to Shenton Way bus terminal via the Central Expressway, after the bus was off-service.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Parvathi Menon said that Nagibullah's actions had endangered bus passengers and other road users, and that "it was nothing short of miraculous that there were no accidents".

Agreeing, District Judge Yap said that as a public transport driver, Nagibullah shoulders a heavier responsibility as he was entrusted with the lives of his passengers.

"Whether he was upset or had personal troubles, it was no excuse to put lives at risk," he said.