Driver and passenger safety

Carrying your passengers safely, on time, efficiently and courteously is a vital part of your job as a bus driver. You’re responsible for their safety and well-being while they’re on your vehicle.

Seat belts

As the driver of a bus, coach or minibus, you must use a seat belt if there’s one fitted in your vehicle, unless you’re reversing or you have a medical exemption certificate.

Since 1998, the law has required that when 3 or more children aged between 3 and 15 years are carried on an organised outing in a minibus, larger minibus or coach, they must be provided with a lap belt on a forward-facing seat as a minimum.

All front-seat passengers must use also use seat belts if they’re fitted: these are the passengers that are seated parallel to the driver. Children under 3 years old must use the correct child restraint if they’re sat at the front; if there is not a child restraint, they must travel in the rear of the vehicle. From age 3 up to a height of 135 cm, children seated in the front must use a child restraint if available, or use the adult seat belt. If there are no seat belts, children must not travel in the front.

Passengers in the rear of a minibus must use seat belts if they are fitted. Children aged 3, up to a height of 135 cm, must use a child restraint if there’s one available, otherwise they must use the adult seat belt.

In bigger vehicles, rear-seat passengers aged 14 and over must use seat belts where fitted.

Never allow an adult to put one seat belt around both themselves and an infant on their lap: this could cause serious injuries to the child in the event of a crash.

Passengers must be told that seat belts must be worn where they’re fitted. There may be signs or you may need to make an announcement. You should make sure that all passengers understand the regulations on seat belt use: remember that some may not be able to read or may not understand the signs.

Passenger distractions

When you’re carrying lots of passengers, you’ll need to make sure you concentrate on the road when you’re driving as well as being aware of your passengers, without being distracted by them.

This could involve

  • asking your passengers to be quiet or to turn down music
  • making sure you do not drive irresponsibly because of something a passenger has said or done
  • stopping the vehicle so you can sort out any problems before you carry on with your journey.

Avoid talking to passengers while you’re driving because this will take your attention away from the road. Do not use hand-held equipment such as microphone while you’re driving: keep your hands on the steering wheel.

Never allow your passengers to put pressure on you to drive dangerously or show off.

Interior lights

Your vehicle may be fitted with interior lights: these will help passengers move around safely when it’s gloomy during the day and at night. Make sure that the inside of your vehicle is lit whenever you’re carrying passengers.

You do not need to turn these lights on when you are not carrying passengers, but they will make the vehicle easier to see at night.

Bell codes

Few buses have conductors but, if your bus does, you’ll need to know the bell codes the conductor will use to communicate with you.

  • 1 bell: stop when safe
  • 2 bells: move off when safe
  • 3 bells: bus full
  • 4 bells: emergency on bus.

Remember that passengers may use the bell incorrectly.

Tickets and luggage

If you’re responsible for taking payments, issuing tickets and managing passengers’ luggage, make sure you know your organisation’s procedures for doing these correctly.

Documents when driving abroad

If you’re taking passengers abroad in your vehicle, everyone on the vehicle (including you) must have a valid passport. Some countries may require people to have visas before they will allow them in.

You must carry your driving licence when you drive abroad.

Security checks

Carrying out security checks will discourage crime and help your passengers feel confident about their safety. Your checks should include

  • locking doors, windows and equipment boxes when you’re at a stop and planning to leave the vehicle unattended
  • searching your vehicle at the end of your route and before starting your return journey, including under seats and in storage areas
  • only allow passengers to board when you’re present
  • on a scheduled service, check all tickets as passengers board; if you make a stop, ask passengers to who their tickets when they re-board
  • make sure the number of passengers matches the records for the journey, if appropriate
  • on a coach, check the luggage matches the passengers so no items are loaded without them belonging to a passenger on the coach
  • remind passengers not to leave bags unattended and to report any unattended or suspect packages.

Your operator should provide a security check list, so make sure you use this when you make your checks.

Lifting loads safely

As a passenger-carrying vehicle (PCV) driver, you’re likely to do some manual handling and lifting. Lifting loads in the correct way is important to avoid injuring your back – which can then affect your ability to drive.

To reduce the risk of an injury when you’re lifting,

  • follow the systems of work provided
  • use any equipment that’s provided to help you properly
  • tell the relevant person if you identify any hazardous handling activities
  • make sure you do not put others at risk as a result of what you’re doing.

Always try to use good techniques for lifting and handling so they become a habit.

  • Before you lift, think about what you’re lifting and where it’s going. Can you use anything to help you? Do you need to move anything out of the way? Will you need help?
  • Start from a stable position with your feet apart, one leg slightly forward of the other to keep balance. Move your feet during the lift if you need to.
  • Start in a good posture. Avoid fully bending your back (stooping) or fully flexing your hips and knees (squatting): it’s better to start the lift with a slight bending of your back, hips and knees.
  • Get a good hold on the load so there’s no risk of it slipping or falling.
  • Keep the load close to your waist: keeping it close to your body will make it easier to lift.
  • Avoid twisting or leaning sideways, especially while your back is bent. Keep your shoulders level and facing in the same direction as your hips. Move your feet to turn rather than twisting.
  • Keep your head up – do not look down at the load when you’ve got it securely.
  • Move smoothly rather than jerking or snatching.
  • Do not lift or handle more than you can easily manage. If you’re struggling with a load, you’re far more likely to get injured.
  • If the load needs careful positioning, put it down before adjusting it.

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