Musings of an ex-bus-driver

Well, first of all, Happy New Year and all that good stuff, I hope everyone out there had an enjoyable Christmas with their family and loved ones and if they have already had their New Year Celebrations, that they did not go overboard indulging in the usual things that go on during such events.

For my first blog post of the new year, I'm going to be talking about a rather unusual topic that I see come up with quite a bit of regularity - Seatbelts on buses. Having been a bus driver for a good 5 and a half years, I know the workings of a bus quite well and a lot of the technicalities involved on a day by day basis, such as how short the break between two different bus routes are, what issues a driver may come across, how to defuse hazardous situations, all that kind of stuff. Every so often you see an isolated incident where a driver has not allowed enough leeway for the driving conditions and as a result, they may smash into another vehicle, hit a pedestrian or some other unpleasant occurrance. Such situations usually result in injury to at least one passenger in the bus as well, unfortunately, which usually results in the argument of Seat Belts in Buses rearing its head yet again. Personally I am a member of the group that believes that the cons of having seat belts in buses far outweigh the pros. I am going to go over some of them in this entry.

Having spent nearly 6 years driving buses myself, I can say that it is nowhere near as simple as what people claim to simply put seatbelts on buses.

1. They would require frequent maintenance due to people causing malicious mischief by deliberately fraying the seatbelts (typically the same people that graffiti on the back of seats or scratch graffiti into the glass windows, causing several hundred dollars in damage when we have to get the glass replaced)

2. The buses would require extensive downtime, due to putting in approximately 65 seatbelts into a single vehicle (taking apart every single seat, putting a seatbelt in, putting the seat back together and testing it to make sure it is installed correctly, plus the need for added electronics if you are going to include an alarm when someone is seated there and does not have the belt done up) and having each one painstakingly checked each time the bus needs to be taken in for a certificate of fitness

3. More time taken out of an already busy schedule when the alarm goes off because a seatbelt is undone and the bus driver has to check EVERY SINGLE SEAT because of one seatbelt that someone has left undone on their way out of the bus, causing timetables to either need to be readjusted or drivers to become further and further behind schedule as the shift progresses. An option to circumvent this would be to add weight sensors to the seat to detect when someone is sitting in the seat, but a) this would add even more cost to an already costly project and b) this would easily suffer false triggers due to people putting suitcases or schoolbags on the seat next to them, triggering the weight sensor, thus causing the seatbelt alarm to go off.

4. If there was a fire on the bus, or the bus was to become submerged for whatever reason, the passengers are effectively trapped in their seats until they can get their seatbelts undone, effectively wasting valuable seconds and potentially costing lives (Let me tell you, getting a seatbelt undone when your hands are shaking as fast as a malfunctioning paint mixed is NO EASY TASK!)

These are just a few of the things that make them far more trouble than they are worth.

What we REALLY need is bus drivers sticking to reasonable speeds, going over speedbumps at slow speeds like they are MEANT to and most importantly, people realising that bus drivers are human beings too and just trying to do their job, meaning they need to STOP CUTTING BUS DRIVERS OFF and acting like the driver is in the wrong.

Seriously, more than once I had a car swing in front of me with NO warning, causing me to almost slam into them (yeah, an under-1000kg vehicle vs a 15+ TON vehicle - guess who is going to end up dead? I'll give you a clue - IT IS NOT GOING TO BE ME) and then when I blast my horn at them, they roll down the window and give me the "middle finger salute"

There would be no need for them if people would simply adhere to the rules and CONDITIONS of the road and be considerate towards other drivers.

That being said, I am not opposed to constructive arguments that give me cause to reconsider my point of view. If you think you know of some reasons that can't be easily counter-argued by my earlier points, feel free to email me at glen (dot) stradwick (at) me (dot) com with the subject "Glen's Lair Blog Arguments" and I will be happy to read through it and provide a response, either by return email or possibly even here in my next blog entry. Please note that I do have a fairly busy life though, so it may be several days before you receive a response.

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