According to Or Yarok, the Association for Safer Driving in Israel, there were 571 road accidents involving buses in 2022. This is 24 more accidents than in 2021. Of those accidents, 44 were fatal (at least one person was killed). This is a record number in the last five years and double the year 2021, in which there were 22 fatal accidents.
Bus passengers have reported drivers speeding; being distracted by their phones; failing to stop at bus stops; elderly people, children and the infirm falling; refusing to open the ramp for passengers with disabilities (and shouting verbal abuse at them for making the request); speeding through crosswalks while pedestrians are crossing; failing to give passengers time to sit down or hold on to a rail before driving off; speeding sharply around corners causing passengers to fall; verbally abusing passengers; heavy & unnecessary jerking when approaching bus stops; showing no regard for human life and no remorse when causing pain or injury.
In January 2023, a 10-year-old girl was admitted to hospital with a serious head wound, and 39 people were injured when a bus, carrying children, teachers, and parents on a school trip, crashed into a truck.
In August 2022, a young mother and her two daughters, ages 3 and 7, were killed when a bus driver lost control, ran over several pedestrians, and then plowed into a bus stop by the Rav Shefa Mall in Jerusalem.
In December 2019, the driver of bus 947, traveling from Jerusalem to Haifa, lost control and crashed into a shelter killing 4 people.
“I lost my wife, Hayley (35), a teacher from South Africa, who was traveling from Jerusalem to a family celebration in Haifa on the first night of Hanukkah. The driver, now in jail, lost control of his vehicle,” said Eli Varenberg, a tour guide from Jerusalem.
Last year, a bus driver closed the hatch door of the luggage compartment and started to drive off, while a girl (C.B.) became trapped inside as she was reaching for her luggage. She was saved by other passengers who heard her knocking and screaming.
A similar incident occurred a few weeks ago, in which a young soldier (E.K), asked the driver to open the luggage compartment in order to retrieve her luggage. As she was removing her luggage, the driver closed the hatch door on her leg, with her body mostly inside. The driver started to drive off while her gun was being dragged along the ground causing it to spark. She was rescued when someone banged on the door to alert the driver. The girl is currently bruised and traumatized.
“I witnessed a child get off a bus. The driver closed the door so quickly that the child’s backpack (on his back) got stuck in the door. The driver zoomed away with this child pinned to the outside of the bus door. He then drove at least 50 feet before paying attention to passengers’ screams,” said Gavi Zeitlin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh.
“I travel from Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem by bus every day. I fear for my life on every bus journey and I have lost count of the number of dangerous bus experiences that I have endured. I experience speeding, danger, and recklessness regularly. On one occasion, our bus was on the verge of crashing into the car in front. I shouted at the driver to watch out. I then noticed that his head was tilted over and he appeared to be falling asleep. If I had not screamed at him at that moment, there would have been a crash,” said Elisheva Rosenthal, a Beit Shemesh resident.
Doors being closed on passengers
COUNTLESS PASSENGERS have experienced doors being closed on them, including children, the elderly, and parents of babies and young children in strollers.
“I rode the bus with my young kids, ages, one, three and four. I got off the bus with my stroller and my three and four-year-olds were next to me. The doors closed on us and my three-year-old got stuck in between the doors. The driver started to drive with her body half in and half out. The entire bus started screaming. Her face and upper body were scratched up and she was traumatized and scared to go on buses,” said Elianna Poleyeff, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh.
Dr. Rosenfeld, a resident of Beit Shemesh, has been the victim of multiple bus incidents. “I am 81 years old and walk with a stick. I was on my way to a hardware store and while getting on the bus, the driver shut the door on both of my shoulders. The passengers yelled at him, after which he opened the doors. On a separate occasion, the bus driver jerked heavily and came to a screeching stop. I fell onto the handrail and broke my rib. On another occasion, the driver stopped so fast and hard that an elderly lady fell into the aisle and slid on the floor past several seats. All these incidents took place on Ramat Beit Shemesh buses.”
A horrifying incident took place on a bus in 2017.
“I was traveling on a bus heading from Jerusalem to Kochav Yaakov. I reached into the luggage compartment to retrieve my luggage. The driver closed the door on my thighs and drove for 10 minutes on a windy mountain road, while I was caught inside the hatch door with my legs hanging out of the bus. I had to keep my legs bent upwards to avoid getting hit by moving vehicles or light posts.
“I was screaming from pain but nobody heard me. When we reached the next stop, people saw me, got the driver’s attention, and helped to get me out. The people on the bus said that they could hear a terrible human scream but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. I was in shock and in agonizing pain. I feel lucky to be alive,” said Miriam Bunimovich.
“Bus drivers treat passengers like animals. They smash people in the doors, press the brakes too hard making people fall and they are always in a hurry,” said E.P, a resident of Jerusalem.
“In August 2019, I was heavily pregnant and traveling on a bus from Beit Meir Moshav to Jerusalem. The driver was driving extremely erratically, swerving in and out of lanes. He then drove into oncoming traffic for about 100 meters with several cars needing to swerve into the dirt on the side of the road to avoid a collision. The bus driver was driving so dangerously that I feared for my life. I was screaming at him to stop doing it but he just laughed at me and continued. It was a terrifying experience. I was too scared to stay on the bus so I got off and waited for the next,” said Shira Kaplan, a resident of Beit Meir Moshav.
“I was in the middle of crossing the road at a crosswalk in my local neighborhood, when a bus driver, traveling in excess of 80 kph, almost ran me over. It came within one meter of me,” said J.S, a resident of Beit Shemesh.
“In general, about 50% of the time, buses in Ramat Beit Shemesh do not pull over when picking up or dropping off passengers at bus stops. This creates havoc for the traffic, road rage, and dangerous situations for pedestrians at crosswalks due to gridlock,” said Mr. Naiman, managing director of a yeshiva.
Pressure from tight schedules
BUS DRIVERS work under immense pressure with tight schedules. They have no basic health and safety awareness, with no monitoring or supervision.
Safety standards and precautions need to be implemented; cameras need to be installed in luggage compartments; drivers need to be given road safety education and bus drivers (and the companies who employ them) need to be held accountable. Every bus driver should be monitored and evaluated by an undercover inspector, and drivers failing to adhere to safety regulations need to be dismissed with licenses revoked.
Passengers are being abused and terrorized on public transportation. When will it stop? How many more children need to get trapped in closing doors? How many more limbs need to be broken? How many more people need to be trapped in a luggage compartment for 10 minutes with their legs hanging out on a moving bus?
Just when will it stop?
Long hours, tight schedules and poor compensation are not, and will never be, acceptable excuses for terrorizing, abusing, injuring, and murdering passengers.
And I will end this article with a quote from my daughter, Elisheva Rosenthal; when leaving the house for work every day, she’d say, “I hope I will see you later. But I cannot promise.”
Passenger abuse is a national emergency that can no longer be ignored or denied. It needs to be placed at the top of the national agenda in order to protect citizens and save lives.
The next tragedy must be prevented.
The writer is a resident of Beit Shemesh.