A corner approaches in the distance, requiring a sharp turn. The bus hits top speed as it negotiates the turn, precipitated by a stomach-churning moment. The passengers seem unnerved as vendors continue to flog products, ranging from chewing gum to fake Rolex watches.
This is commonplace in some of Ecuador's most rural areas, with US$0.25 buses as an economic way to travel in the city of Quito.
Often, buses are still in transit when commuters attempt to exit, prompting conductors to aim a kick at the patron, who has little option but to leap and hope for the best. Occasionally, the door may shut in their face, pushing the unfortunate person back onto an unsuspecting crowd of people, packed like sardines with little regard to their safety, or hygiene.
In August of this year, 24 people were killed in a bus crash 30 km east of Quito, when it overturned after striking a vehicle. Three days prior, 12 people were also killed when a bus carrying fans of Ecuador's most popular team, Barcelona SC, flew off the highway and flipped over.
According to the watchdog group, Justicia Vial, vehicular accidents are the leading cause of deaths in the country, with seven people killed daily in crashes.
Meanwhile, in Guayaquil, 17 of 18 buses checked for maintenance this year, failed their inspections, local newspaper El Comercio reported. Reasons such as poor tires, broken windshields, and even drivers not having the necessary documentation can be held responsible for these tragedies — not to mention sheer recklessness on the road, infamous with drivers in Ecuador.
If such incidents are to be minimized or even prevented, it would take a greater effort from the national Road Pact, charged with averting mishaps on the road in Ecuador, to finance greater materials and programs in order to stamp out these disasters.
Until then, hold on for your life, it's going to be a bumpy ride.