Public transport hazards: How to keep you, and your morning coffee, safe

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, Im not driving; I dont 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.

For drivers: 

  • 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.

For pedestrians: 

  • 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 Blackburns Sunshine office. 

TOPIC: Public safety
RELATED LEGAL SERVICES: Road accident injuries

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Danielle Leo

Maurice Blackburn Sunshine
Danielle Leo is a Senior Associate and Personal Injury Accredited Specialist in Maurice Blackburn’s Sunshine office in Victoria. She specialises in providing motor vehicle accident compensation legal advice and representation for people making common law and TAC claims. Danielle joined Maurice Blackburn more than 10 years ago and is an extremely tenacious solicitor. She never gives up her fight against the TAC, and has had many notable wins against the commission over the past decade. These include successfully: arguing for the TAC to pay for a client’s university tuition after an injury from a car accident forced him out of his regular line of work proving a back injury sustained at a later date was related to her client’s road accident, resulting in the Court finding in favour of her client obtaining a significant back-payment of loss of earnings benefits for a client who the TAC had decided was not an earner, and obtaining significant compensation for a client who had battled the TAC for several years. Danielle holds Bachelor degrees in Laws and Behavioural Science from La Trobe University. She enjoys fighting the TAC and insurance companies, but is kind and understanding when it counts. She is motivated by the knowledge she can help her clients and their families during their time of greatest need. “Transport accidents change people’s lives in a split second, affecting not only the injured person, but their family and friends, too,” says Danielle. “Accidents don’t discriminate; they affect people of different ages and all different backgrounds. If I can help these people get their life back on track, it is important that I do.” Danielle always remains focused on the bigger picture – helping her clients take charge of their future health and happiness. “Helping people to obtain the medical treatment, income assistance or compensation to get their life back on track and make as much of a recovery back to their pre-accident life as normal is what inspires me most.” Danielle is proud of her Italian heritage, is fluent in speaking Italian, and describes herself as a “little Italian firecracker willing to fight to the end.” Accreditations and memberships Law Institute of Victoria Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law LIV member Australian Lawyers Alliance member Western Suburbs Law Association Executive Committee member Geelong Law Association past president Maurice Blackburn Women’s Network member ...

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