Sixteen people were killed and 36 injured in the latest road accident in Peru, raising road fatalities in March to more than 60. The accident occurred at 5:30am Monday at Km 148 on the Nazca-Puquio road in Ayacucho, where the bus veered off the road and fell 500 meters down a mountainside.
According to the Ministry of Health, six people are seriously injured, including a six-year-old child with head injuries and have been taken to the regional hospital in Ica, on the south coast. The remaining injured are being treated at the hospital in Puquio.
Exactly a week ago, a crash between three buses and a truck on the PanAmerican Highway at Km 317 outside Huarmey resulted in the death of 36 passengers, and 84 were injured. The accident, one of the most serious in many years, was also in the early hours, at 4:30am, and occurred when the driver of a bus operated by the Murga Serrano transport company tried to overtake another bus and hit an oncoming vehicle. Poor visibility on the open, unlit highway was compounded by fog.
These accidents are the result of informality among transport companies and little if any action by transport authorities, according to Luis Quispe, head of the non-profit Luz Ambar (Amber Light).
In an interview with La Republica, Quispe said there are seven entities in charge of managing transport, starting with the Ministry of Transport and including regional and local authorities as well as regulatory bodies, often with conflicting regulations that provide space for passenger and cargo transport companies to circumvent standards and requirements.
“There’s no coordination between them,” said Quispe, each jurisdiction acting in isolation, not sharing their policies and with no regard to the law. “Unfortunately, transport in our country is politicized,” he said, adding that politicians do nothing to improve the situation.
The confusion and lack of coordination allows, for instance, transport companies to either not install or to remove the GPS chips from their vehicles, and in the case of an accident this means that transport authorities and rescue services cannot respond quickly to any emergency because they have no information until someone at the scene of the accident makes a call. The fine for not installing GPS is barely dissuasive.
At the crash on the PanAmerican Highway, four passengers died because medical help only arrived three or four hours later, Quispe said.
Fatal bus accidents are frequent in the Andean highlands, mostly involving informal or small bus companies that do not invest in vehicle maintenance and do not require high driving standards form their poorly paid drivers. On the PanAmerican Highway, the crashes are inevitably due to poor visibility and high speeds.