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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Surviving a KSRTC volvo bus accident

One of my close friends, Santosh called me yesterday and narrated his recent experience traveling in a KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) Airavatha Volvo bus, from Bengaluru to Hubli. Due to negligent driving the bus met up with an accident at around 4 AM, some 10 kms before Haveri (A district HQ in Karnataka). Luckily there were no causalities though many suffered minor injuries. Santosh works for a leading Engineering services company and his work involves extensive travel, visiting factories all over and supervising installation activities.He usually doesn’t get sleep during night journeys and stays awake. He asked me to write a post on his close to death experience, so that it reaches larger mass and hopefully some KSRTC officials.

Here goes his narration of incidents that unfolded before and after the accident.

I boarded Bengaluru-Belgaum (via Hubli) KSRTC Volvo Airavatha at Majestic on Monday evening, (ticket no 15049073 PNR No: j145768064, seat no 24, Total fare Rs 511). Bus left from Bangalore at around 10.15PM, 15 minutes beyond schedule. A Vishnuvardhan starer Kannada movie, Bandhana was played at a disturbingly loud voice. Volume was toned down after repeated complaints and requests from passengers.

At around 1PM, the movie ended, conductor went to sleep in one of the front two seats that were empty. On a highway near Davanagere, driver was driving on the wrong side of the road, in a rather rash and unprofessional manner, with abrupt breakings and swings and nearly missed hitting a truck coming from opposite direction. After getting heavy scolding from the truck driver he carried on, without any improvements in his driving style. Again driving on the wrong side, he created a traffic jam and was forced to drive back couple of kms and make way for traffic. At Davangere he stopped for just 10-15 seconds, only to offload some cylinder like stuff he was carrying with him. No stops for tea or to attend nature’s calls.

4 AM in the morning, driving towards Haveri, probably 8-10kms before Haveri town, on an almost deserted nice 4 lane double road, our bus was cruising at about 80-100 kmph speed. With driver’s passion for driving on the wrong side notwithstanding, he missed noticing a diesel tanker on the road. The diesel tanker had fallen off road into a pit, with its rear part protruding on the road. Noticing it too late, our Volvo ended up ramming into the protruding rear part of the tanker, jolting all sleeping passengers.

It took several minutes for everyone to wake up and understand what’s happening. Due to the impact of collision, driver’s seat was pushed back by a meter or two, into the passenger section. His leg was jammed and he was screaming for help. We tried to remove him but we couldn’t. Of the 40+ passengers on board, some 25+ suffered minor to medium injuries, but fortunately there wasn’t any death.

We shouted for help and other buses stopped seeing the accident. They tried to break open the glass windows, but fiber windows were tough to crack. Finally people were evacuated through the front portion of the bus, which was severely crushed due to the impact.

We called the emergency number 12666 written on the bus for help. For long, no one received it. Finally, by about 4.20 some lady picked up the phone. As we briefed her about the accident and asked for help, she started interrogating us instead, asking our name, address, from where we were calling. She was not in a position to do anything other than listening.

As I came out, I had nothing else with me. My wallet, office laptop, cloths all were inside. I went inside searching for it, saw that all baggage had fallen off the racks on the passage and people were carelessly walking all over it, searching for their belongings while damaging others’. With some struggle I found my belongings and sighed in relief.

Most of the passengers were regular office goers who had to be in their office same day. No one had the time and patience to stay back and say either claim a compensation or assist police and other officials. Everyone left towards their destination hopping on to other buses or whatever mode of transportation they got. The conductor was in a shocked state and no one bothered him. I got on to a private bus and reached my Hotel in Hubli in one piece.

In retrospection,

  • The driver wasn’t drunk. He was aged about 35. He was wearing his uniform. May be he wasn’t trained properly or he had some unknown reasons to drive badly
  • We don’t know if the diesel tanker into which our bus rammed was loaded. Since Volvo had rear engine nothing catastrophic happened, else collision into a loaded fuel tanker with a front engine bus could have resulted in an explosion.
  • Conductor could have given company to driver and ensure that he stays awake and drives properly. Instead he enjoyed the movie and slept off. Most of the private buses will have two drivers, which is not a case with KSRTC
  • No pit stops or breaks were given all the way.
  • Bus as such was in a bad condition, with torn seats and smell. Every year KSRTC buys 1000s of new buses (and concerned officials and ministers pocket huge commission). Their attention to maintaining existing fleet is near zero.
  • Those manning emergency response numbers must be trained and prepared to handle emergencies like this
  • One of my co passengers was a Chief General Manager at NABARD. He was a first time KSRTC traveler and is thoroughly disappointed with his experience and has sworn not to travel KSRTC again.
  • Due to various reasons,people seldom complain/follow up after incidents like this as they’ll have their life to carry on with. I’ll be giving a written complaint to KSRTC on this within a few days, though I’m not optimistic on any action.
  • As there was no death, media and others weren’t interested in this accident. But coming so close to death was a horrifying experience. I hope incidents like this doesn’t repeat.
  • Weren't the Volvos supposed to have airbags for the driver? We didn't see any going off.

Narrated over phone by Santosh, composed by Shrinidhi

Related posts: Hyderabad-Bangalore by bus-Comparison of operators * Redbus.in review * BMTC Volvo city buses * Self drive car rentals * KSRTC website *

27 comments:

hari said...

These volvo buses with power steering and air-brakes are menace to road users. Just because they can drive fast and stop suddenly bus drivers tend to go extremely fast and end up in such situations.

I am all for banning Volvo buses for long distance or using a speed regulator which prevents them from accelerating beyond 60 km/ph.

Sandesh said...

Regarding the wrong side driving, I guess he must be trained in US or other countries where Left hand drive is the norm. Hehe!

Yes. Volvo drivers are a bit rash, I've noticed it and they expect us to pave way for them.

One more thing I noticed while driving is that, you simply cannot think of Volvo behind you unless you see it in the rear view mirror. They stay so close to you that tensed two wheeler drivers may tip off watching them so close to their vehicle losing balance.

Most drivers are used to wake up at night, one cannot decide upon KSRTC based on just this incident. When compared to other RTCs, I've heard many saying that Karnataka is the best.

Sandesh said...

One more thing, regarding complaints, most of the customer cares of government are awake only during day. Nothing happens unless govt decides upon 24 hr service.

Trails of a Traveler said...

I guess Santosh will have to get a receipt for the complaint and follow it up!

Nandeesh said...

Good to here no one was hurt in the accident..............

There is an inside tip for getting out from a volvo bus in case the exits are jammed.

The huge wind shields they have are very hard to break from the outside they may only crack up if you throw a huge stone or a medium with sufficient momentum but on the contrary the inner part is very vulnerable so if you can get your hands on to a pointed device and hit the windshield from inside you can break it!!!!!

But be careful,use this option if there is no other way out because those huge things cost abt 70,000 Rs!!!!!

Radhika Ganesan said...

Few months back couple of infosys employees died while coming to pune from mysore...even then couple of my friends were discussion the issue ...unlike Maharashtra buses where there are two drivers for overnight journeys...in Karnataka buses there is just one..and it is very human to lose consiousness when one feels sleepy...the problem is with the system of single driver...

I am happy for all the passengers...hope the message is sent across to the right ppl

Sandeep said...

Driving on wrong side is a specialty of these night drivers!. I have been on KSRTC BLR-Mumbai route and every time it stops after BLR for dinner at Kamat hotel, instead of taking a U turn, the driver drives 200 meters on wrong side!.

The issue is not about volvo. The issue with the attitude of drivers and their training.

Volvo Bus is designed well to give the driver the pleasure of driving a honda city, but they misuse that.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Hari,
60kmph is too less. At that speed it will take twice the time to reach destination. Its not speed, but a careless and negligent driving that causes accidents. Better training, surprise checks and a mechanism to collect passenger feedback should help.

Sandesh,
If at all, he must have been trained in Hosakote, where Volvo has an assembly unit.

Since they run thousands of buses every day, one or two incidents are insignificant for them. But they should aim to achieve six sigma standards. agree on the customer service part.

Ram,
Guess he will do that. But he keep traveling, so may not be able to follow up much.

Nandeesh,
Good tip. 70k is nothing compared to life of passengers trapped inside.

Radhika,
yes, death of Infy staff is still fresh. That accident also happened soome where between Hubli and Belgaum.
Dual driver system is very critical.

Sandeep,
Not just volvo drivers- most of us are like that-driving on wrong side to save some extra travel.

I agree there's nothing wrong in Volvo's design. But we don't have good roads on which we can run them and drivers' training and mindset also matters.

Thanks all

Mridula said...

Glad to hear that your friend is safe but in India driving in general becomes something akin to 'need for speed!'

hari said...

Hi, Shrinidhi.

60 kmph is more than adequate for a bus. A bus is a dangerous heavy vehicle with immense momentum and the chances of fatal accidents are great when a bus travels at higher speeds. Also stopping a bus suddenly in an emergency is extremely difficult at higher speeds which is why such accidents occur.

To me, getting there a few hours late is a small price to pay for reaching there alive. Just saying. If two buses moving at 80 kmph each collide in opposite directions, imagine the momentum! Both buses would inevitably be crushed taking the lives of hundreds of passengers with them.

Training drivers is important, but equaly it is important to recognize buses for what they are: a heavy vehicle with much higher momentum of a car or a light vehicle at the same speed.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Mridula,
Need for speed it is. We've vehicles which can cruise at high speeds, but at most places have no road infrastructure to drive them on.

Hari,
I somewhat disagree.
When there're 4-6 lane tolled roads wide enough to facilitate fast, I see no harm driving faster, provided driver is comfortable handling it. When will we achieve development if we don't have world class transportation facilities?

Besides, accidents can happen even at 60kmph, so driving slow doesn't necessarily guarantee a safe journey. (I am not advocating super fast driving, but when roads permit, decent speed has to be acceptable)

Also by design Volvos are far more safer than regular buses. I would agree if you say they should launch a smaller sized version with less powerful engine

hari said...

Volvos are safer for the passengers inside. I was talking also from the point of view of other road users. :-)

Also accidents can happen at 60 kmph but I think the chances of fatality will be smaller and the driver might have a better chance to avoid collisions.

Actually in my view, Indian road conditions, particularly where there is no median/divider on highways, don't allow such speeds by heavy vehicles.

I think that training drivers is very important, but for the most dramatic reduction in road accidents some kind of speed regulation has to come into place.

A lot of these bus drivers, especially those employed by private operators tend to be far more rash than the drivers of state buses, which tend to be in a state of disrepair and don't allow too high speeds. Private transport buses tend to speed too much at night time. They're a terror on highways at night, as I can testify

(I've driven a few times at night and it's not a pleasant experience being a car driver with those flashing bright lights in your eyes).

Shrinidhi Hande said...

ok, may be we can something like a variable speed governor, which controls speed on a bad road and allows higher speed if road is good and median exists?

I think driving rash is nature of some drivers, irrespective of they drive a STC bus or a private bus or a car. We often blame it on respective bus companies based on our experiences.

Agree High beam driving is a problem-not just buses-most of the drivers do not dip the beams.

News-N-Views said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
News-N-Views said...

Just do not depend on government. I think we can do for it...

Vinodh said...

Volvos tend to drive on the right side of the road as their prime motive is to overtake as all other heavy vehicles move at 40-50 speed and volvos travel at 80+. Thus they tend to swerve to the left only when spotting an oncoming vehicle in the opposite direction. This is really a scary scene both for the passenger in the volvo and the one in the opposite vehicle, should something go wrong... Hence, volvos are more suitable where roads are 4+ lanes and is separated by hard road dividers...

Shrinidhi Hande said...

That's a right observation Vinodh

Manoj said...

My views:
1. Roads suitable for Volvo buses and to be able to drive at least 80kmph, with proper lane system for such types of high speed vehicles. When these roads pass through towns and villages, they should be given separate roads. Reduce the no.of speed breakers, I consider them unscientific. If at all needed, give proper warnings.

2. Two driver policy, it depends on the roads, the traffic and the duration of the journey. This can also be substituted by proper breaks at bus stations. Actually these breaks are cut short by passengers who are not punctual. These buses wait for them at boarding points. This whole waiting policy must be stopped, and all journey's must have a proper duration.

3. About Volvo,
The bottom line is that the vehicle is an absolute piece of artistry. Its mechanically very soubd and is very intelligently made. You can get and idea of it when you see a volvo bus and an ordinary bus passing through a rough patch of road. The shcoks of the volvo are absolute joy to watch. They just float like butter. So I dont consider reducing their speed as an alternative, better give them good roads(also for other fast vehicles). Transportation and quick transportation is very essential.

4. Above all, there is something we always forget when we drive. Respect other road users. When everyone does that driving is fun and less harmful. No wide roads(4 lane etc.), flyovers, underpasses can reduce accidents or jams. Sensible lane driving will. Thats what I try to do when I drive a vehicle. If you have a full view, just throttle away, but in traffic remember there are others who use the road and also with urgent works(Its not that only we have urgency).

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Manoj,
Thanks for the detailed comment. Agree on all

Yes, bypass roads are being created wherever possible.

Sensible driving is also something we need to learn a lot.

Nishanth Rao said...

I have something to add regarding the maintainence. I happened to travel to Dandeli via KSRTC Rajahamsa. It starts at 8:45PM from Majestic. The bus was looking good from outside. But the worst part is bed bugs. I killed 8 of it and some got escaped. They were moving with no fear. Its not only my prob. Even co-passengers were facing same issue. When checked with conductor he said that they got the pesticides sprayed only that day and no chance of having bed bugs!.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

That's another problem... As such people won't get sleep and these bugs ensure that sleeplessness is complete.

ss said...

Hi,

Good to see that most of you were safe.

Driving on the wrong side ...and you still kept on watching the show!!

And ,what did you do to avoid this .Did you go and reprimand the driver for driving rash.Rather than wait for something like this to happen and then complain.

If you try and stay awake in the night,you will see teh way these B7R drivers terrorise drivers of smaller vehicles and even 2 wheeler riders.

None of us bother to do this .We act only when we are affected.

Volvo buses have a hammer provided inside to be used in case of emergencies so that the emergency window can be broken.Did you write to KSRTC about this .
Now this is a different story that KSRTC will never act on such complaints.

And ,how many of you waited to help the driver?

I am sure things can change in the long term if passengers call up KSRTC or reprimand the driver whenever they see drivers driving rash.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

SS,
Will pass on your comments to Santosh. He is in a far away town of Baroda now, too busy to worry/follow up what happened back in Hubli.

Where exactly will we find this hammer?

I understand driver's life was not in danger, only legs jammed and so passengers couldn't move him. I'm sure he was rescued sooner or later.

ss said...

The Volvo B7R bus has a safety hatch that can be opened from inside.
Also,these buses have 2 windows which are marked as "Emergency Window" which can be broken with a briefcase or the hammer .Normally ,hammers are provided by Volvo India ,but I havent seen these one many buses.
Also,I do remember reading somehwere that even if the doors are jammed in the event of a mechanical failure due to an accident,the main door can be pushed open from inside.

FYI ,just look at this link where I had written about KSRTC and do look at what the first comment says!!!

http://www.consumercomplaints.in/complaints/ksrtc-volvo-airavat-c184454.html

Shrinidhi Hande said...

SS,
Yes, but when an emergency strikes, we often panic and fail to locate emergency exits and hatches. At times there'll be stampede and we may not be able to head towards the designated exit...

Thanks for sharing the link

Bella Holmes said...

I am glad to hear that no one get hurt on the accident.Carelessness is one of the main reasons behind unexpected accidents especially in car and motorcycle accidents. Just follow the roads policy to prevent any accidents.

Motorcycle Accident Attorney Orlando

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