Thousands of Aussies pile on to public transport every day. Meanwhile, the rest of us fend for ourselves behind the wheel, on two feet or on two wheels. All these vehicles and people make for a crowded cityscape, and if you’re not careful, accidents can happen.
While we've all heard experiences of (or, worse, actually been involved in) traffic accidents and skin-of-your-teeth near misses, we don’t hear as many horror stories about public transport injuries and close calls. But these tales of transit terror do happen, and it's worth thinking about some of the everyday pitfalls and pratfalls to make sure we can all stay safe on and around public transport.
Look up, look around
We’ve all been there – heads down in our smartphones, absorbed in the cat video du jour, and madly texting with our mates about tonight’s big plans. Indeed, when you use public transport, it’s easy to switch off and get lost in your own little world. We think, "Well, I’m not driving; I don’t have to pay as much attention". But this tuning out can lead us into a false sense of security. As responsible citizens, commuters and city dwellers, we need to tune back in and be well aware of our surroundings so we can keep ourselves and our fellow travellers safe.
It's likely you won't have much trouble visualising the following scenarios:
- The train or tram you’re on brakes or jolts suddenly, sending you– and your vital morning coffee – The fall, not to mention the scalding-hot liquid, could easily hurt you, others or both.
- You’re so preoccupied with this morning’s impending staff meeting that you step– without looking – into oncoming traffic when you’re getting off your bus or tram.
- You don’t have a seat or a good place to hold onto the bus or train, and you lose your balance, landing embarrassingly– and potentially dangerously – in your neighbour’s lap.
- You forget that your handbag is underfoot or don’t see your fellow passenger’s Woolies purchases, and again, you trip.
- You’ve turned up the volume on your headphones so loud that you don’t hear warning signals or that vehicle honking to tell you to get out of the way.
Keep in mind these common risks so your inattention of today doesn’t become the viral video – or, worse, the hospital visit – of tomorrow.
Your best protection is to call on basic common sense, but we all need a reminder from time to time, whether we’re passengers, drivers or pedestrians.
For public transport passengers:
- Whenever possible, hold on to the seats or handles– not your fellow passengers – to keep your balance.
- Try to get to your seat before the driver gets to the accelerator.
- When getting off a tram or bus, turn down the volume and turn up your focus before stepping out onto the road. The world is full of distracted drivers, so it’s best to err on the side of caution– don’t assume that cars have stopped, and don’t take for granted that drivers have noticed that the tram or bus has come to a halt.
- To ensure it’s safe for pedestrians to cross the road, be careful when overtaking, and don’t overtake when you’re not allowed to.
- When youare allowed to pass (such as when a bus pulls into a bus stop), still assume that there are pedestrians around, channel your inner snail and drive slowly.
- Vehicles sometimes need their space. Avoid moving in front of a bus or tram without allowing enough braking room, and remember that buses or trams may take longer to brake than a car.
- Basically, be a model motorist: always follow the road rules, and watch for extra signs and warnings around public transport.
- Don’t try to beat public transport when crossing the road– buses, trains and trams are much bigger and faster than you! Be patient and wait for them to pass; you’ll get to your finishing line soon enough.
- Take note of line markings at train and tram stops. They’re there for a reason. Make sure you stand behind them.
- Again, if you’re wearing headphones, the road is no place for a silent disco. Don’t turn the volume up so loud that you completely block out the outside world. Be aware of your surroundings, including other pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles.
Alert the authorities
If you get injured on or around public transport, you should immediately report it to the train, tram or bus operator and the public transport authority so there’s a record of the incident. You should also seek medical advice as soon as possible.
Danielle Leo is a senior associate in Maurice Blackburn’s Sunshine office.