SBS bus driver jailed for drinking on the job

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

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 yesterday.

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

The court heard that the married man had been depressed and had snapped after his ex-girlfriend threatened to take her life on June 29 last year, the day of the incident.

His lawyer, Mr Richard Siaw, said in mitigation that his client had shown good conduct and was once featured in a publicity video by the Land Transport Authority.

But Nagibullah comes from a conservative family, who would have disapproved of his relationship with his non-Indian, foreigner girlfriend.

When his family matchmade him with a woman from India, he broke up with his girlfriend, who took it badly and started stalking him, said the lawyer.

On the day of the incident, she met him for lunch and gave him an ultimatum - leave his wife or she would kill herself, Mr Siaw said.

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 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath. This was more than two times the prescribed limit.

He 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.

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

Closed-circuit television footage showed him taking a total of six sips from the bottle over the 21/2 hours he was driving the bus.

Several passengers had confronted him when he beat several red traffic lights and even fell asleep at the wheel on the way to Yio Chu Kang bus terminal. He continued to drive dangerously on the return trip via the Central Expressway when 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2017, with the headline 'SBS bus driver jailed for drinking on the job'. Print Edition | Subscribe