Auckland Transport resorts to safety screens on buses after 'startling' increase in violence towards drivers

Auckland Transport (AT) has resorted to trialling safety screens on buses to protect drivers in what it calls a "startling" increase in violence towards them this year.

There are also dangers in being a cyclist or a pedestrian and AT said its city-wide speed limit reductions will be the best way to reduce death and injury on the roads.

If you catch the bus you've likely been affected by the thousands of cancelled services due to the driver shortage and AT's executive general manager of safety, Stacey van der Putten, said the increasingly aggressive behaviour towards drivers is not helping recruitment.

"Levels of harm that we've seen this year are over five times more than the previous four, five years," she said.

The rise in physical violence and verbal harassment towards drivers has left AT reaching for its last resort/

"We are going to be trialling some bus driver protection screens. Now that is a fundamental change in mindset getting to that point," said van der Putten. 

A fraction of passengers are ruining public transport for everyone else.

"For many many years bus drivers did not want protection screens, they thought it would distance them from customers [and] they generally enjoy that customer interaction."

It's not safe for those outside vehicles either. AT said people are most likely to be seriously injured or killed on one road while walking, cycling or on a motorbike in a 50km/h zone in the afternoon on a weekday.

Another 1600 roads in Auckland will have reduced speed limits by the end of March - including many around schools.

"The difference between 50km/h and 30km/h is the difference if a child runs out in front of your car is the difference between taking that child to a hospital or an undertaker," AT safety lead Ping Sim said.

Speed is a factor in 70 percent of crashes causing injury and death in New Zealand, so-called "microsleeps" are a factor in up to 20 percent of collisions and alcohol or drugs 19 percent, while potholes play a part in just 0.1 percent.

Sim said driving a bit slower won't slow your trip down much.

"Any future speed limit changes will have a maximum travel time increase of 15 seconds."

AT said international cities have embraced 30km/h speed limits, so New Zealand's trailing behind.

The difference is those cities have excellent public transport systems, whereas Auckland has one even Mayor Wayne Brown has said is in crisis.