Nicosia buses will be fitted with seatbelts for drivers as soon as possible, hopefully within days, Nicosia bus company OSEL director Andreas Athanasiades said on Wednesday.
From Tuesday, the road transport department started to clamp down on buses with no seatbelts after the tragic accident on July 7 which killed an OSEL bus driver and injured ten other people. Athanasiades said the move to install seatbelts meant a number of buses were currently out of service.
“We don’t have the luxury to sit back; we cover 1,500 routes and drive 36,000 km every day. Thousands of people depend on us and we can’t just stop operating,” he said.
“Government inspectors from yesterday [Tuesday] started to chase the drivers but we need time to find the right equipment which is approved by the manufacturer and we need to order them for 80 buses. It is not that easy.”
He said he hoped it would only take a couple of more days. “We will work through the night if necessary; it is in everybody’s interest to do this as soon as possible,” he added.
Though the buses doing the rural routes have seatbelts for drivers, none of the 80 city buses do.
“As I understand it, the reason is that back then (in 2010) when the buses were imported and registered nobody requested them,” the OSEL manager said.
Since then, the buses have been inspected and passed each year by the road transport department despite the fact that a local law requires the installation of seatbelts.
Last Thursday a 61-year-old bus driver, Sofronis Mylonas, died after he was ejected from the bus, while trying to avoid a car that had overtaken the vehicle and had slowed suddenly in front of it. The accident occurred in Archangelos in Nicosia.
Mylonas was thrown from the bus through the windshield and landed on the road where he was run over by the still-moving bus.
The out-of-control vehicle, with 13 passengers on board, veered into the metal road divider, smashing through it and crossing into the opposite lane, where it collided successively with four more cars before coming to a halt. Ten more people were injured.
At the time traffic police chief Yiannakis Charalambous said buses should have seatbelts installed and drivers are obliged to wear them, something which is obligatory after a relevant law was passed in 2007.
Passengers are not obligated to wear seatbelts.
The road transport department on Wednesday did not want to comment on why the buses were passed through the inspection without drivers’ seatbelts for years or on why they started the clamp down now without giving OSEL time for their order and installation, only saying that this as a delicate subject on which they would comment at a later stage.