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Study into violence against bus drivers - an Australian first

Bond University is leading an Australian-first research project to address the issue of violence on buses, with a number of incidents recently coming to light.

The $100,000 project, supported by the Enterprise Connect Researchers in Business program, will see the University working closely with the Transport Workers Union (TWU), Surfside Buslines, Queensland Bus Industry Council, and TransLink to streamline the reporting of incidents with the ultimate goal of improving design features to increase bus driver safety, customer satisfaction and industry efficiencies. Researchers in Business is an Australian Government initiative providing funding of up to $50,000 in matched funding to support the placement of researchers directly into businesses such as Surfside Buslines. 

The funding stems from a scoping paper presented by Bond University researchers Yolande Huntingdon and Robyn Lincoln to the TWU and Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Scott Emerson, in August 2012, titled Behind the Wheel, in the Line of Fire, which documented violence and threats towards bus drivers as a significant problem.

Criminology researcher Yolande Huntingdon, under the supervision of Assistant Professor Robyn Lincoln, will collect and analyse data to look at the frequency and nature of violence towards bus drivers with the aim of shedding some light on the prevalence of the problem.

“This research is unique. It has never been undertaken in Australia, and there are very few international studies that examine attacks on drivers. The first step in addressing the problem is knowing the crime,” said Mrs Huntingdon.

“Anecdotally, we know the type of criminal activity that is taking place and that certain routes are more dangerous than others, but the fact remains that less than ten per cent of incidents against bus drivers are actually reported.

“This study aims to capture the full extent of violence against bus drivers by training them in the use and importance of recording a range of incidents, with the assurance of complete anonymity,” she said.

Mrs Huntingdon said that in addition to focus groups, a key component of the research would be the development of a tablet-type device that would be fitted to buses to allow drivers to quickly and easily record incidents in real time.

“Drivers will be trained in the safe and proper use of this device, which will gather all of the pertinent information about each individual incident; from the geographic location and time of assault, to the type of violence or anti-social behaviour experienced. Without this information, it is impossible to design a good crime prevention strategy.

“The results of this study will hopefully lead to a wider, national project to implement crime prevention strategies to reduce violence against drivers,” she said.

Queensland Bus Industry Council Executive Director Mr David Tape said the research project was a step in the right direction.

“The safety of our drivers is paramount and this study will gather vital information that will benefit our Industry as a whole. Information that will allow for the development and implementation of safety strategies and practices,” said Mr Tape.

“The Queensland Bus Industry Council sees this as phase one in achieving our primary goal of reducing and eliminate violence against drivers,” he said.

Surfside Buslines Head of Operations Mr Les Manson said the company was excited to be involved in the ground breaking research project.

“As an employer of over 600 bus drivers on the Gold Coast it is imperative we do everything possible to ensure their safety and well-being; safety across our bus networks is our number one priority,” Mr Les Manson said.

“Together with the Transport Workers Union, Queensland Bus Industry Council, Transit Australia Group, and TransLink we look forward to delivering a continued increase in driver and passenger safety on all of our bus networks.

“Bond University has an outstanding research program and I am sure the outcomes from this particular project will benefit the greater Gold Coast community,” said Mr Manson.

Transport Workers’ Union State Secretary Peter Biagini also welcomed the project.

“A study of this importance is long overdue not only in Queensland, but throughout Australia.

“A number of recent incidents have put the spotlight on violent attacks against bus drivers. The only way to reduce assaults is to first, understand them. Once you have that insight you are then able to tailor your resources and design counter measures to combat the problem,” said Mr Biagini.

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