Or: Three ways to Help a Bus Not Kill You
BY: Elliot Menge
JMU is an active college and its students, faculty, and staff members seem constantly motion whether walking or riding the bus system around campus.
I happen to be a bus driver for HDPT as well as a student here at JMU. This has afforded me the chance to witness many occurrences on campus that often go unnoticed—unnoticed, that is, for everyone except the bus drivers who can finish a shift feeling shaken, worried, and on edge because someone assumed a bus could stop in time, or that the bus driver saw them.
I want to share a few of these instances while also discussing three steps that can be taken by anyone to ensure greater safety around JMU: Look, Listen, and Leave Room. Each of these steps is simple, practical, and will help you practice safety with confidence.
Step 1: Look
Picture this: you have your iPhone out while walking to class, earbuds in listening to music, and you are approaching a street. It seems obvious to say out loud, but please stop before you step off the sidewalk and into the road. Stop, and look for cars, busses, and bicycles.
While driving, I often see people step into the road (whether it be a crosswalk or not) without even looking up to see if there is an oncoming bus. With a mere second or two to spare, the driver is then forced to swerve at least a few inches (which is a lot on these narrow JMU roads), maybe honk their horn, or even slam on their brakes. While we avoid the pedestrian (who usually is either oblivious to what just happened or scared out of their pants), our passengers may have just lost their balance due to the sudden braking, or we as bus drivers are shaken because we know what could have just happened: we could have hit you. Know the roads and intersections that you frequent and be mindful of the traffic in the area.
Ponder this: A bus is a 25,000 pound vehicle (34,000 if full of passengers). You are (likely) a 100-250 pound person. By rules of physics, for you to stop on a dime is easier than any bus. You may have the right of way to cross the road, but would it hurt to let the bus pass if they are close and closing in? While the bus driver will try to stop, always consider letting the bus pass instead of risking your life.
Step 2: Listen
Music triumphs all else as my favorite pastime between classes, as I am sure it does for a majority of JMU’s population. If you ride my bus, you will usually get either party music or NPR (usually the party music when I drive on Friday and Saturday nights for you Drunk Bus riders!). However, listening to music around buses is a risk that can be eliminated.
Ass a bus driver because I often find myself slamming on the brakes because someone steps into crosswalk not knowing (or checking) to see whether a bus is nearby. Nine times out of ten, that person has headphones on and does not realize that a tank of a bus almost hit them. I want you to be as aware of the bus as you want me, the driver, to be aware of you.
Step 3: Leave Room
When you board one of our buses, the wheel sits behind the front door and the driver. This means that the front of the bus can also go over curbs without the wheel ever touching it. For students, this is extremely important because this means the bus can hit you if you are standing too close to the curb. If you find a bus approaching where you are standing on the sidewalk, then create room for the bus by taking a few steps back.
While difficult when a crowd has gathered at a stop, I would encourage you to also be communicating this bus design/danger to those around you when these circumstances arise. Your peers may be distracted While it might feel goofy, you can find a way to encourage others to step back for their own safety.
Look. Listen. Leave Room. Three simple rules that can dramatically improve the ability of bus drivers on JMU to drive safer, your safety, and the safety of everyone around us. The most important part of this is that we all take part. Let’s work together to keep JMU safe!