Safety on public transport has been under the spotlight since last week, after a young woman jumped out of a moving bus.

She escaped death; however, she sustained some really bad injuries and was hospitalized. The driver did not stop and kept driving.

96 Buzz FM’s Coffee and Controversy team have looked into the issue of safety on public transport and spoke to the Vanuatu National Council of Women (VNCW), the Public Land Transport Authority (PLTA) and a senior bus driver.

VNCW President Leias Cullwick, says the VNCW is deeply concerned about this issue.

She said the authorities concerned need to find the driver immediately and permanently cancel his licence.

In our society, we always seem to blame the girls when it comes to issues like this, Mrs. Cullwick said.

She said there are always two sides to a coin, if girls are wondering around aimlessly and end up in trouble, they should be told to behave themselves.

However, in this particular incident, this young lady was heading home from work by bus, the bus driver dropped off her friend at Ohlen but refused to stop at Manples causing her to panic and jump out of the moving vehicle.

Mrs. Cullwick said this is disrespectful and just plain idiocy on the driver’s part. She says we should be living in a society where men respect women and women respect men. Respect is something that should be taught in the home before the kids grow up and go out.

She mentioned in Papua New Guinea there are now designated buses driven by women into late hours of the night to make women feel safe to travel at night should they need to.

Mrs. Cullwick is appealing to the authorities concerned to take this into consideration for Port Vila.

PLTA CEO Reginald Tabigerian says it all comes down to manners. The CEO says driving a public transport is a business and a business needs to make money. However, he says while wanting to make money drivers have to have good manners since they are serving the public.

The CEO says, good manners on how you speak to people and greet them is very important. To add on to manners, Mr, Tabigerian says drivers need to dress up well.

Mr. Tabigerian says the Minister of Internal Affairs, Andrew Napuat had signed an order last year, calling on all public transport drivers to dress well. Unfortunately, a lot of bus drivers have failed to comply.

John Rol Tari, a senior bus driver says appearance says it all. Speaking from his personal point of view, he says it is always important for him to dress well, maintain a clean bus as the little things always give confidence to the passengers and it makes them feel safe once they’re onboard.

Mr. Tari, a bus driver since 1992 also says back then the population was small and there weren’t many buses. The Ambaen man says back then most drivers were mature men and incidents of abuse and women jumping out of moving buses was unheard of.

Mr. Tari says these days, there are approximately 1,400 service buses on our roads serving the city of Port Vila with an approximate population of 63,000.

He believes one reason as to why there is so much abuse of women these days on public transport is the lack of respect shown by drivers and these days in some cases parents fail to teach their sons well at home compared to his days growing up.

Mr. Tari also says that just because we have rights doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want as with rights come responsibility. As a driver, he and other drivers have a responsibility to transport passengers from point A to point B in a proper manner with respect as the lives of the passengers are in their hands.

He also spoke about sexual harassment and says sometimes people do not know their limits and that actions such as cat whistles, sexually suggestive gestures and statements or even just touching people especially tourists, when talking to them is just uncalled for.

In comparison with how buses are operated in Sydney, buses there are well maintained, painted the same color and all have onboard CCTV cameras, two-way radios with the central base and GPS tracking and panic buttons which passengers can press should the need arise.

When questioned whether Vanuatu should go down that path, PLTA CEO Tabigerian, says he welcomes the idea however it costs a lot.

He said there is a plan in place for a driving school to be set up in order to train future public transport drivers and access them to determine them fit and proper. He says at the moment his department is encouraging more drivers to attend the Ambassador program as it teaches a lot on customer service.

Mr. Tari also spoke of the Ambassador program, tough requirements and testing of behavior done in Australia to qualify an individual to be a public transport driver.

He says if such measures as well as other requirements in Australia mentioned above, were to be carried out here he would happily cooperate and accept them as that is our way forward in making public transport safer and more efficient for all.

As prevention is always better than cure, VNCW President Cullwick encourages all girls to be extra vigilant when travelling at night and to assess the drivers well.

She says if any girl doesn’t feel comfortable, they should not get on board and if any girl is already onboard and feels uncomfortable, she should call or text friends, family or even the police and notify them of her whereabouts. They should also note down the bus type and vehicle number plate.

The PLTA CEO also echoed this statement, saying under the Land Transport Act, anyone who feels unsafe has every right to report the driver.