Bus of ‘Call the Police’ and ‘Call 911’ Messages Causes Online Concern

An emergency sign on a bus asking pedestrians to call “112” worried people online after a short video of the message was viewed more than three million times.

The video was uploaded by Conrad Benner, a Philadelphia resident, who had seen the disturbing message while in town. “Never in my life have I seen a SEPTA bus display this,” he said.

The front of the bus instead had the destination sign: “CALL 911” and “PLEASE CALL POLICE”.

Unsurprisingly, Benner was startled by the plea for help, but his fears were quickly allayed by the driver. “I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “But luckily the driver rolled up and said he was fine. The sign was just broken.”

In the clip, the bus driver opened the doors and could be heard starting to tell Benner that the sign was just broken.

For many online, there were doubts about how a board could malfunction such a specific message, but SEPTA confirmed to Newsweek that it is a pre-stored message in the bus system used for emergencies.

“This is a message that operators can display in the event of an emergency, while simultaneously contacting the SEPTA police via transmission. This can also be for a medical emergency, not just a police response,” said SEPTA Public Information Manager John Golden in an email.

“It should be noted that in the video, the voice says that the driver told him he was okay and that the sign was only broken temporarily,” he added.

Despite TikToker Benner’s reassurance, many on TikTok were concerned about the driver’s well-being and, as TikTok so often does, created detailed theories about what could have happened.

Benner took to TikTok again to explain that the bus driver was not part of a hostage situation or forced to say the sign was an accident. “I could see the bus was empty, logically if this person was being held, the hostage-taker wouldn’t know the sign was on (and the driver wouldn’t have opened the door to say anything)”

“But again, the bus was empty, it was just the driver and the driver informed me that the sign was just broken.

“I grew up in Philly too. These signs are often broken. I’ve never seen these explicit ones, but the signs are often broken,” he added.

Benner went on to say that he had contacted SEPTA through a Twitter DM after the popularity of the video. “As the operator pointed out. These kinds of technical errors do occur,” SEPTA replied.

The story may not have had the ending that TikTok users had theorized, but it has raised awareness of the emergency signals buses can use in most cities in the US.

For example, Boston buses also flash “Emergency. Call Transport” Law enforcementin an emergency. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Police advise citizens to call Transportation Police or 911 if they ever see this sign.

In New York City, Metropolitan Transport Authority buses may also display an emergency sign, “Emergency. Call Police.”

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