Bus front and interior should be safer

Bus front and interior should be safer

12 October 2023

“The front panel and front of a bus offer hardly any resistance to protect the bus driver in case of a head-on collision, and that even at low speed," Norwegian transport minister Jon-Ivar Nygård stated. He referred to an accident in 2017 in Nafstad in which two buses collided head-on at just 33-34 km/h; one driver was killed, the other seriously injured. This accident led the Norwegian Centre for Transport Research to launch a comprehensive study of bus accidents, and in a broader sense than the classic collision.

Between 1990 and 2022 in Europe, the risk of bus drivers being seriously injured in bus accidents dropped significantly by 5.1% annually. For passengers, the same period recorded an average decrease of 7.3% per year, but since 2015 the figure has stagnated and even increased slightly. The overall decrease was achieved thanks to new technology being introduced, although it is noted that drivers deactivate it repeatedly.

“Quite a few incidents also remain under the radar," says researcher Dr Tor-Olav Nævestad. "These include falls in the bus during (abrupt) braking or acceleration or while getting on and off. Norway's Ruter, for example, recorded 188 injury accidents on buses in 2022, which were not recorded as bus or road accidents. The risk of a (standing) passenger falling in a bus is 0.3-0.5 per million passenger-kilometres, compared with 0.8-1.7 per million passenger-kilometres when getting on and off.”

Investigation of 800 incidents involving buses between 2016 and 2020 found that there were 360 injury accidents resulting from collisions. Collisions with pedestrians, cyclists and moped riders caused 57 injury accidents. All other incidents took place on the bus, during getting on and off or as a result of aggression (23).

The report 'Safety in bus transport in Europe' lists some 30 relevant measures that effectively contribute to making bus transport safer.  For example, it advocates an alarm system that warns passengers in case of an emergency stop. It also recommends a more judicious placement of handholds, as not every passenger is tall enough to grasp the 'handrail' on the ceiling. Better insurance of wheelchairs and child buggies is also recommended.