TCD Research Highlights Risk to Elderly from Sudden Bus Braking

Posted on: 21 January 2009

More careful driving and better bus design are needed in order to minimise the risk of elderly people getting injured when buses accelerate or brake suddenly, according to a new TCD study.

Research undertaken by the TCD Centre for Bioengineering, in association with the College’s Department of Clinical Medicine, has highlighted that most non-collision bus passenger injuries are due to falls and these injuries are more likely to happen among older passengers on buses.

“There is a perception among older people, which is backed up by our data, that buses are an unstable environment where there is high risk of them falling. It is one of the reasons why many older people do not use public transport,” stated Professor of Gerontology at TCD’s Department of Clinic Medicine, Desmond O’Neill. He also stated that the study’s finding could apply to the Luas and Dart services.

Using a computerised simulation model to examine the effects of real-world bus acceleration and braking patterns on standing passengers, researchers found that passengers are at a high risk of sustaining head or knee injuries in these situations.

“The risk of injury is exacerbated by aspects of bus design”, stated Dr Ciaran Simms, of the TCD Centre for Bioengineering. “In particular, risk of injury exists from contact with horizontal handrails on seats and stairwell walls which provide an easy target for the head to hit, and from leg contact with the lower edges of seats. Passengers should be discouraged where possible from standing in the aisles and immediately behind the stairwell on a bus to prevent injuries.”

The research also advocates additional training for bus drivers, such as viewing videos of computer simulations, to highlight the risks for standing passengers caused by excessive braking and acceleration. Other recommendations include the replacement of horizontal seat handles by vertical handrails and that less stiff rubber be used on bus floor surfaces in order to minimise the risk of falling.