August 15: The bus drivers threatening the safety of the elderly

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From: Jean Lorriman, Huddersfield Over Fifties Forum, Penistone Road, Waterloo, Huddersfield.

LAST week whilst waiting to board a bus into town an elderly gentleman joined me. The bus was late and l got on first with the man following.

I was seated but the bus set off before the old chap plus his stick could sit down. I managed to grab his coat and steadied him to the nearby seat. There was much tut tutting from other passengers – and rightly so – about the clearly unstable driving but the man was stoic and quite dismissive of the incident as though it was something to be endured.

Some of the passengers had put up with this from Denby Dale whilst I and my co-passenger had only embarked at Waterloo. The jerky driving continued until town but passengers still got up before the bus had stopped. One older lady was clinging to a pole with all the grimacing of a gyrating dancer – yet on disembarking she thanked – yes actually thanked the driver!

These incidents – and not for the first time – need addressing. I have not complained about the driver because it is an arduous job, they are anxious to be on time, accessing town is a minefield and passengers do not obey the instructions to stay safely seated until the bus stops. However, and by the same token, drivers are setting off before passengers are seated.

These are potentially deadly combinations for an increasingly elderly population who could suffer injuries that may kill them. Indeed l have a friend whose elderly mother died from injuries sustained from rising too early for her bus stop. She was flung around the bus like a rag doll and never recovered.

When l was on the now defunct Community Health Council, I was a member of the Local Implement Team (LIT) which introduced the standards in the National Framework for the Elderly. Standard six dealt with falls and until then I had no idea how many elderly deaths and injuries could ensue from seemingly innocuous falls. To the credit of Kirklees Council, it has stepped up to the mark with literature, events and a slipper amnesty to replace old slippers with new well-fitted ones.

I felt proud of Kirklees’s record and it has been the envy of other local authorities.

Yet there seems little point if all this good work is going to be undermined by the flouting of safety regulations by both bus passengers and drivers. It’s almost as though a culture change of “calm down dear” for both drivers and passengers needs to take place. If this could happen, it may be be a lifesaver for the elderly.

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