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Don't Throw Me Under the Bus

bus1 Photo credit: Hobi Industri on Unsplash

When one hears the expression: he threw me under the bus – it usually refers to a boss who put all the blame on an innocent worker for his own failure.

Now I cringe when I hear that expression, because in June I was thrown onto the road (almost under the bus) by a driver who closed the doors before I had got both my feet onto the pavement.

As a frequent bus passenger I have witnessed sufficient bad driving behavior to question whether Israel`s bus drivers are qualified to provide safe transport, especially for the elderly or those with mobility issues.

I do not have such issues but am vertically challenged, so if the driver does not stop close to the kerb as they are required to do, it is a bit of a stretch to step down onto the road and up onto the pavement. If a passenger also has to handle a walker, a heavy shopping cart or is a parent with a stroller, entering and exiting the bus is difficult, as is the fast acceleration of the bus because the drivers do not wait for passengers to be seated.

On this June day, the trauma of which stays with me, I rang the bell to get off the bus at the stop next to my house and stood by the front exit of the bus in full view of the driver. Although there was plenty of room, and no parked cars blocking the bus stop, the driver didn`t bother to pull in to the kerb. Holding on to the safety bar I put one foot down on the road when he suddenly closed the door, propelling me backwards onto the road, the first impact being a resounding crack on my head followed by a flow of blood. I was convinced that my head had split open and that my brains were spilling out. The driver got off the bus, helped me get up, said he hadn`t seen me and when he saw I was conscious, he got back in the bus and drove off. I staggered into my house, called an ambulance and my son to accompany me and we spent the next six hours in the Emergency Room. After a CT and several other tests, I was released, miraculously without any permanent damage but with a thumping headache.

I opened a police file and with the certificate and the notes from the hospital I wrote a letter of complaint to Egged. I did not expect much monetary compensation but wanted to make sure that the driver was traced and disciplined.

As one who reluctantly gave up driving my own car a couple of years ago because I had vision problems that I felt were affecting the safety of my driving, I was grateful that I have several buses stopping near my home.

But is it safe travelling on an Israeli bus?

Some years ago, Dr. Kit Mitchell, a retired researcher from the British Road Research Laboratory wrote a paper: "The fragility of older road users in Britain." In this paper he discusses the vulnerability of the older pedestrian as well as passengers in cars or public transport. "If they are involved in an accident, they are more likely to be injured, they take longer to recover and are more likely to die or be permanently incapacitated".

In Britain, the bus driver has total responsibility for the safety of his passengers. If he causes an accident he is fired. Compare this with some of Israel`s worst bus disasters where it is found that the driver had several serious accidents on his record.

Traumatised as I was about using buses following my fall, I was in London a month later and in a location where the best access was by bus.

The queue at the bus stop was orderly, one elderly woman, a mother with a toddler and baby in a stroller and myself.

The bus drew up close to the kerb, the driver opened the door and tilted the platform slightly so that the mother could wheel her stroller with ease onto the bus. He waited while we all entered the bus, swiped our cards and sat down when he drove off at a reasonable speed.

With a smile and good morning, the driver patiently transported his passengers safely and efficiently.

Eventually, Egged did respond. I was offered compensation on condition that I signed off on the claim and did not make any claim in the future on that particular incident. That seemed a heavy commitment for the sum they offered but I felt that the insurers and the bus company at least had been made aware of their dangerous drivers.

The Ministry of Transport has to ensure that all drivers of public vehicles are trained and disciplined to follow the rules of safety on the road. And any driver who causes an accident must lose his license. 

Photo credit: Matthew Henry on Unsplash

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Monday, 30 January 2023

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