“Distracted” bus driving was the defence of the Algarve’s last deadly tourist bus crash two summers ago in which four Dutch holidaymakers died – and now we have an insight as to the kind of ‘distractions’ that haunt the nation’s bus routes.
According to a shocking report and subsequent commentary in the UK’s Daily Express, passengers have been put in the hands of a driver who texts at the wheel and talks on the telephone.
As the Express’ story explains, British grandmother Linda Harley was “horrified” by what she witnessed on a coach journey from Faro airport to her hotel destination in Albufeira.
A victim of “car crashes in the past”, Mrs Hurley was so concerned that she secretly filmed the bus driver’s unorthodox behaviour in order to take the issue up with package tour operator Jet2holidays.
“It was horrific”, she told the Express. “There were young families with kiddies and elderly couples on the coach – people of all different ages.
The driver “probably took about two phone calls and sent a lot of text messages.
“As soon as he put the phone down, it was like he thought he could text someone else.
“That’s not right. There’s no respect. You know you’re not in control at the wheel when you’re doing that.
“I noticed he was doing it within a couple of minutes.
“I was watching him the whole journey. He started off texting a couple of times, then somebody phoned him up so he was talking on his phone.
“After that, he picked up his phone again and sent a few more text messages.
“You could see he was swerving in the road while he was doing it.”
Linda Hurley’s nightmare journey ended with the packed bus of passengers arriving safely at their holiday destination, but as she explained, her fear is that other passengers in future may not be so lucky.
“My main concern is that this guy is going to kill somebody”, she said.
Thus she contacted Jet2holidays on her return to UK – going public over social media when she decided things were not moving the way she had hoped.
“’I thought they would be horrified”, she told the Express. “But they didn’t seem too bothered. I was angry. How would I feel if I saw that driver had driven a coach off the road?
Since Linda Hurley’s video has been uploaded onto social media, Jet2holidays have been approached by the Express. A spokesman told the paper:
“We would like to thank Linda for bringing this to our attention.
“We work with partner suppliers to provide coach transfers and go through a strict process to ensure that drivers make safety their number one priority and do not use hand-held mobile phones whilst driving.
“We take this footage extremely seriously and are investigating as a matter of absolute urgency.’
One could take this story as a “one off”, but the truth is that incidents of bus drivers “distracted at the wheel” appear to be commonplace.
A working mother employed by the Resident has told us about a visit to Lisbon by her son’s school in which pupils “were amazed” to see a bus driver “reading a newspaper laid out over his steering wheel on the motorway”.
“My son even took a photograph”, she told us. “It wasn’t very clear as of course he was photographing a bus in motion. But he was absolutely stunned”.
The driver of the bus that “came off the road” on the A22 near Albufeira in June 2015 was also apparently distracted – though at the time reports suggested he had fainted at the wheel.
Earlier this year, the driver received a three year 10 month suspended jail sentence, and was banned from driving for three years (click here).
A statement put out by the Public Ministry said that “the court found the defendant allowed the vehicle to get out of control by driving too close to the verge, not paying attention and being careless”.
Two days after the bus crash, another bus crashed on a route from the Algarve to Lisbon, killing three people and seriously injuring another nine (click here). Very little appears to have emerged over what caused the tragedy, though some reports talked at the time of the driver becoming suddenly ‘indisposed’.
The Resident spoke at the time with Manuel Oliveira, the vice-president of the syndicate of bus drivers, who claimed passengers are taking their lives in their hands every time they board a bus in Portugal (click here).
“Accidents will become more and more frequent” he warned, stressing the problem with the sector is that drivers are worked much too hard, and get very little rest..