WHAT IS THE SAFEST SEAT ON THE BUS?
In the middle, in an aisle seat on the side opposite of oncoming traffic.
I would estimate that I have “enjoyed” 20,000 miles on buses. I’ve survived a 36-hour ride from Beijing to Kunming, a sweltering broken-AC ride from Mulege to La Paz, Mexico, a grueling “third time’s a charm” ride from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh in which I rode on three different buses on one ticket due to the breakdowns of the first two, and an all-out air conditioning assault each time I’m in Malaysia.
To get the seat I want, I go in prepared. I have a little graphic showing the ticket seller of which seat I request.
Here’s a breakdown:
• Passengers in the front of the bus are vulnerable in a head-on collision. Yet, the drivers’ seat is sometimes believed to be the safest seat on the bus, due to the drivers’ instinct to maneuver in a manner that keeps him or her alive in treacherous conditions. People who frequently sit at the front of the bus may have an tendency to feel a certain camaraderie with the driver, who is in charge of his/her safety and fate
• Passengers in the rear of the bus are vulnerable in a rear-end collision. However, this is a rare type of collision and often happens at a low speed
• Passengers on the side adjacent to oncoming traffic (this is flipped between the UK and the US, for example) are more vulnerable to a collision with an oncoming vehicle. In less-developed countries, where oncoming vehicles are often informally built and haphazard, with objects perturbing from all sides (the kind of appendage that would quickly get you pulled over in the US), the side adjacent to oncoming traffic is particularly vulnerable to something smashing through the window. If your bus is speared from the side, such as if it runs a red light and is hit perpendicularly, then either side could be equally vulnerable.
• Passengers in the front of the bus are especially vulnerable to the abrasive music that your bus driver will be playing to keep him or herself entertained
• Passengers in the rear of the bus will be vulnerable to the smells coming from the bathroom (if there is one), but less bothered by passengers walking up and down the aisle, except when they go to the bathroom, then you will be aware of them; far too aware
• In the case that there is a bathroom in the rear, passengers in the middle rows of the bus deal with the least amount of disturbances. Also, being opposite of oncoming traffic means that you will have a more unobstructed view of the landscape as it passes by.
You will generally find me in the middle rows, opposite oncoming traffic and usually at a window seat, as I do like to gaze out the window while stroking my chin and thinking deeply about Russian literature and the theories of Michel Foucault. Of course, I will be the one wearing a helmet.