Bus driver who was drunk during shift pleads guilty

In the incident last June, Nagibullah Raja Saleem had started drinking alcohol before his shift and continued drinking while driving the bus.
In the incident last June, Nagibullah Raja Saleem had started drinking alcohol before his shift and continued drinking while driving the bus.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

He had nodded off at the wheel, missed stops, swerved into other lanes and beat red lights

SBS Transit yesterday said it has tightened its checks to ensure that its bus drivers are fit for work, after a driver was convicted of drinking while ferrying passengers.

In addition to declaring their fitness before starting their shift, drivers have to also show they are ready to resume duty after a lengthy break in between trips, with a staff member on hand to check.

Nagibullah Raja Saleem had been so drunk that he nodded off at the wheel, missed bus stops, and veered his vehicle into oncoming traffic, almost crashing into several other vehicles.

The 27-year-old even ignored the shouts of alarmed passengers in the incident, which happened in June last year. He had started drinking alcohol before his shift and continued drinking at the wheel.

He pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count each of driving in a rash manner, drink driving, and using a mobile device while the bus was moving.

Ms Tammy Tan, SBS Transit's senior vice-president, corporate communications, said yesterday: "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 following the incident."

ZERO TOLERANCE

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 following the incident.

MS TAMMY TAN, senior vice-president, corporate communications, SBS Transit.

She explained that the driver had declared that he was fit to drive and was checked when he started his shift in the morning. "This is required under our standard operating procedure," she said.

"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/her form."

The court heard that on June 29 last year, sometime between 10am and 3pm, Nagibullah drank alcohol before his 3.30pm shift.

Closed-circuit television footage showed that while driving between 4.15pm and 6.15pm, he took six swigs of blackcurrant vodka from a 330ml bottle at his side.

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, falling asleep, and swerving multiple times into other lanes, and the road shoulder. He even missed bus stops more than once.

Some passengers confronted him. A man asked him why he was not moving although the traffic light was green and a woman threatened to report him to the police.

At the end of the shift, he drove the off-service bus to the Shenton Way terminal, where he went against the flow of traffic, almost crashing into an exiting bus, and then parked his bus at a wrong angle.

The police were called there just before 9pm, and he was found with slurred speech and bloodshot eyes, and smelled of alcohol. At about 11pm, his alcohol levels were 2.4 times the legal limit.

For 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 device in a moving bus, he can be jailed for up to six months and/or fined up to $1,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2017, with the headline 'Bus driver who was drunk during shift pleads guilty'. Print Edition | Subscribe