He had an exemplary record driving with SBS Transit for more than 40 years, and is the proud recipient of several awards and commendations, including from the traffic police.
Kwa Ah Bah’s commitment to safety stemmed not just from his professionalism, but also from the stark reminder of the dangers of speeding and careless driving when an accident involving an SBS bus in 1997 resulted in the death of his 21-year-old daughter and elderly mother.
But the bus driver who turns 68 in two weeks faces possible jail time for fatally colliding into a pedestrian who was not using a designated pedestrian crossing in November last year.
At the State Courts on Friday (7 December), the prosecution sought a two-week jail term for Kwa, while the latter’s lawyer asked for a fine.
Kwa, who has been sacked by SBS Transit, had earlier pleaded guilty to one charge of causing the death of 46-year-old Tan Meow Hiang by doing a negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, by failing to keep a proper lookout.
He is expected to be sentenced next Thursday (13 December).
Driver negotiated bend, pedestrian didn’t use designated crossing
At about 6.10am on 8 November last year, Kwa drove an off-service SBS Transit double-decker bus from Soon Lee Bus Depot towards Boon Lay Bus Interchange to begin his morning shift. He drove within the speed limit and did not drive recklessly.
At the time, it was drizzling, the road surface was wet, traffic flow was light and visibility was fair.
Tan, a Singapore permanent resident from Malaysia, had left her Johor Baru home at about 4.30am and was on her way to work.
At about 6.25am, along Jalan Boon Lay towards Boon Lay Way, Kwa drove straight on the extreme left lane of the three-lane road. As he was negotiating a slight gradual left bend on the road, Tan crossed the road from the right side of the bus.
The spot was not a designated pedestrian crossing. But Tan was not jaywalking as there was no pedestrian crossing or overhead bridge within 50 metres.
Tan had stepped off the centre divider and completed crossing two of the three lanes. She was not looking in the direction of oncoming traffic.
Kwa failed to spot Tan until it was too late. He stepped on the brakes when Tan was right in front of the bus, in the left most lane of the road, and swerved the bus to the right. But he was unable to avoid crashing into her.
Kwa attended to Tan and called for an ambulance. She died from her injuries in hospital about two hours later.
An inspection of the bus found no mechanical defects. Video footage of the accident from the in-vehicle camera of the bus was played in court on Friday.
Accident an ‘unfortunate blot in flawless employment history’
Deputy Public Prosecutor Senthilkumaran Sabapathy asked for two weeks’ jail, in line with previous cases.
Defence lawyer Simon Tan argued for a fine instead, saying Kwa had little to no time to avoid the collision.
“It is also noteworthy that there is a barrier erected along the middle of the central road divider, clearly with the intention of preventing or deterring pedestrians from crossing the road along that stretch as the road is wide and spans three lanes. It would be a hazard for any pedestrian to cross that stretch without using the designated road crossings,” said the lawyer. Kwa’s view could also have been blocked by the large sideview mirror of the bus, he added.
“The tragic loss of his daughter and mother (in November 1997) and the grief he faces more than heightens his caution and care when he is driving such that he would hardly wish the same on others,” said the lawyer.
In the wake of the accident, Kwa was sacked by SBS Transit, and lost benefits and privileges he would have received had he retired. But Kwa wanted to continue working as he loved his job, said his lawyer. “This unfortunate accident was a blot in his flawless employment history,” added the lawyer.
The maximum punishment for causing death by a negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide is up to two years’ jail and a fine.
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