CCTV, black boxes for state buses

Surveillance cameras could be mounted on state inter-provincial buses to monitor drivers' behaviour and function as "black boxes", under a Transport Ministry plan.

The ministry believes closed-circuit television cameras will help reassure passengers that they will be able to enjoy smooth and safe trips, Deputy Transport Minister Pong Chewananth said.

Mr Pong said he has ordered Transport Co Ltd, which oversees 800 state buses, to study the feasibility of installing cameras before the end of the year.

"The CCTV will work like a black box in an aircraft by recording what happens in and outside the buses," Mr Pong said.

Under the ministry's concept, each bus will have five surveillance cameras.

The cameras will be able to monitor whether drivers are driving with one hand on the steering wheel, talking on mobile phones or doing other activities which could distract them. The cameras will also be able to record traffic and road conditions.

The presence of the cameras can help "keep drivers' behaviour in line with laws" and, as a result, passengers can travel more safely, Mr Pong said.

In the case of accidents, police can examine the footage to ascertain whether the accident resulted from driver error or other factors that hinder good driving, he said.

Once the cameras are in place, the ministry will consider whether to link the CCTV signal with the Transport Co's bus monitoring centre to keep the buses supervised.

Transport officials have finished installing global positioning system (GPS) devices on the 800 buses to monitor whether bus drivers are driving over the speed limit.

But that is not enough, Mr Pong said.

The ministry is also planning to have private bus operators install GPS on their buses.

These operators are granted concessions to run 13,000 public vehicles, including more than 5,000 vans between provinces. Their driving speeds need to be checked to ensure safety for passengers, he said.

However, Mr Pong said, Transport Co needs to hold talks with the operators on budget issues because GPS installation is costly.

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Writer: Amornrat Mahitthirook
Position: Reporter