20 February 2024

WATCH: Remember this Canberra bus safety ad starring Neighbours actors? The important message is back

| James Coleman
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Bus safety

The fully (w)rapped bus includes the safety “checklist”. Photo: James Coleman.

Seven Canberra school children died between 1985 and 1988 in accidents involving buses, ACTION’s marketing manager Phillip Turner told The Canberra Times in 1989.

He had come up with an idea to stop this tragedy, using three stars from the TV show Neighbours – Kristian Schmid (who played Todd Landers), Finn Greentree-Keane (Toby Mangel) and Sally Jensen (Katie Landers) – and 70 primary-aged students from the Lyneham School to create a music video.

The ‘Bus Safety Rap’ was released on seven-inch vinyl, along with branded rulers and activity sheets for students, and promptly won ‘Best Training or Educational Video/film’ award at the 4th Annual Double m Awards ceremony.

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“It’s the latest craze for kids like you, it won’t take long and it’s easy to do,” the lyrics went, after reminding kids of the rules around buses, such as signalling the driver, not stepping out until the bus had come to a stop, paying the exact fare and not making a mess while on board.

Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel was three years old in 1989 but says the messaging struck a chord.

“We unfortunately still see a few vulnerable road users and pedestrians involved in accidents every year with buses, but it’s much better than it was back in the 1980s,” he says.

The ACT Government has been promoting safety around light-rail vehicles for several years now but says it’s time to revisit buses, and there’s no better time than during the first Bus Safety Week, which began on Monday (19 February).

The ‘Bus Safe Rap’ was dusted off and replayed to a class at the Lyneham High School for the occasion, but the baffled silence in the room – only parted by the odd chuckle whenever the teachers came on screen with their best 80s-rap moves – suggests the song is a product of its time.

Today’s ‘I’m bus safe’ campaign is about 3D graphics, stickers and DIY cardboard models.

Not only are there more buses nowadays – around 400 in the Transport Canberra fleet that drive 500,000 km a week – Mr Steel says the campaign is primarily prompted by a problem that didn’t exist in 1989.

“They didn’t have mobile phones back then, but that’s certainly an issue today and can distract people around these rhinoceroses of the road. Buses are large vehicles and take longer to stop than cars, so I encourage everyone … to exercise caution around the fleet.”

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This is compounded by the number of electric buses joining the Transport Canberra fleet, and they’re a lot quieter than their diesel-powered peers.

“We’re working nationally on what the standards look like for all-electric vehicles and warning indicators to make sure people are aware electric vehicles are coming because they are so quiet,” Mr Steel explains.

“We’ve had those installed on the buses we’re receiving that are zero emissions to make sure that people are aware they’re around. And often those sounds will mimic the sound of a motor or provide a beeping sound.”

Mr Steel says they’ve been working with their drivers to “make sure those sounds aren’t really annoying”.

Bus safety

Minister for Education and Youth Affairs Yvette Berry and Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel with students from Lyneham High School. Photo: James Coleman.

The campaign also falls under the government’s ‘Vision Zero’, which builds on the Federal Government’s target of zero road fatalities by 2035 and calls for “no deaths or serious injuries” on the ACT’s road network.

ACT Policing constable Matthew Collins says he’s attended one collision involving a young person and a bus while on the Major Collision Team, which resulted in minor injuries, but that’s still one too many.

“It’s up to all road users. It’s our young road users … we’ve got to educate them on how to correctly step on and off, making sure the bus is gone and providing situational awareness so they can correctly cross the street, but it’s also up to our other road users.”

The fully ‘(w-)rapped’ bus is on Canberra’s roads now.

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Cathy Massiter6:19 am 24 Feb 24

TCCS is about safety? How about the fact that a TCCS director ordered drivers to overload their buses when leaving the Multicultural festival, last Weekend. I’ll bet the drivers would be high and dry if they had been involved in an accident.

ACT Transport Minister did everything possible to reduce Bus safety risks by removing 750 bus stops and dozens of bus services from across the city in 2919.

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