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February 3, 2011

Putting bus mirror misconceptions to rest

by Louie Maiello - Also by this author

Any way you want to label them, bus "convex" and "real view" mirror discussions generate as much passion as who was the better centerfielder in New York: Mantle, Mays or DiMaggio. Let's put a few misconceptions about these mirrors to rest and get the best use out of them.

Some operators claim they can't drive a bus unless they are equipped with convex mirrors. I have also heard from those who hate them. Any tool that can "help" — and that's the key word  — "help" the operator is something useful.

Consider this:

1) The convex mirror cannot accurately display the true distance that an object is away from the bus/rear tires.

2) The convex mirror should cry out to the operator that "there is something here that may not yet have appeared in your real view mirror yet, so you better transfer to your real view mirror to get the accurate distance from the object." Hear this every time you go to your "convex" mirror.

Relying on the convex mirror to check your pivot point when turning — with the exception of the split real view on top and convex on the bottom found on the articulated bus — will not give the operator the true distance the object is away from the bus. You should never guess how close the pedestrian/object is to the rear tires when turning by using the "convex mirror." If you are not using the "real view" mirror when checking your pivot point on turns, than it's just a matter of time before you get involved in a not so pleasant situation.

The exception again is the articulated bus. The articulated buses that I instructed on, if the mirrors are set properly, the only mirror that will display the rear tires when turning is the "convex."

"Convex" says - There's something close to the bus.

"Real View" says - How close?

Know the differences.

If you're not careful, the "convex" mirror can make you lazy. Teach the benefits of all mirrors to your students and that proper mirror set up and utilization are keys to safe operations. When I was a new bus driver, some buses were equipped with neither a real view nor a convex mirror on the right side. All we had was the reflection coming from the right rear interior ceiling and my tilted center interior mirror to manage the right side of the bus. Manhattan driving with no right side mirrors was a great experience! Talk about "covering your right?" That's another story.

Spend a little more time on mirror introduction when beginning a new class.

A situation where the "convex" mirror outweighs the "real" view is just before closing the front doors when preparing to leave a bus stop:

RIGHT SIDE CONVEX MIRROR reveals the child alongside mid-bus, behind the right front tires and forward of the rear doors. A child is sometimes sent by a parent "go tell the operator to wait." The child is not tall enough to appear in the center mirror or through the windows and will only appear in the right side convex mirror. The area below the window where the child usually is as you begin to close the doors becomes visible in the "convex" mirror.

CENTER MIRROR (tilted down to the right of course) reveals who may be running for the bus coming from the right side that may not yet have appeared in the real view.

We've come a long way.


Louie Maiello

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  • Brian Whelan[ February 4th, 2011 @ 12:13pm ]

    Thanks Louie, your teaching points are bang on. Hope you don't mind if we post them as a reminder for our operators. Brian J Whelan

  • Derrick L. Benson[ February 4th, 2011 @ 1:03pm ]

    No matter how skilled, or proficient a driver is, Murphy's Law applies. I drive for Metro Access, and on a rainy morning we are supposed to have headlight and wipers. I drive from 4 am till 2 pm. From 4 till 7:30 its still dark, and believe it or not their are drivers who's cars blend into the skyline and no lights, so they are invisible. So the mirror thing, as important as it is, watch the next rainy morning or dusk and count how many "truly reckless' drivers are out there.

  • Joel Volinski[ February 4th, 2011 @ 1:48pm ]

    At the National Center for Transit Research at the University of South Florida, we have been field testing side view cameras. While they might not totally replace side view mirrors, they have found to be extremely effective in almost removing all blind spots, providing superior night vision, and providing far more clear images during rain and inclement weather. Drivers who have tested them under controlled environments have liked them very much. The images from the cameras are provided on screens on the dashboard. We are hopeful of getting additional state funding to continue the testing in live conditions. Again, this might not be a substitute for mirrors (especially in the event a camera fails, but it appears based on initial tests that it will improve safe operations considerably.

  • Dave Hillock[ February 5th, 2011 @ 5:19am ]

    Louie, Keep up the good work The set uip and use of mirrors is so critical to a safe operation.

  • Joe Merritt[ February 15th, 2011 @ 7:12am ]

    Louie, thank you for the passion and conviction you display in this area. Proper mirror setup and usage is the life line of safe operation.

  • Oscar Pinto[ February 15th, 2011 @ 8:06am ]

    I agree with you Louie, teaching the proper use of convex and conventional mirrors is very important, and basically I teach the same way when i'm teaching an Operator candidate or even to a seasoned operator that needs help on this subject.

  • Bruce Seibel[ February 15th, 2011 @ 8:54am ]

    Thanks Louie, you are right on point. Keep putting this message out there. If folks do not use their mirrors correctly things will go bad quickly!

  • Billy Cameron[ February 16th, 2011 @ 2:06am ]

    Louie, we are running an Operators recertification program in our simulator. Timing was perfect for as we were explaining the concept of scanning both flax and convex mirrors, your latest blog became available ironically about the convex mirror. Once again you hit it out of the park. I'd love to steal your line about "The convex mirror tells you something’s close - The flat mirrors says 'How close.'" So simple yet elegant. Keep up the good work my friend. PS. This may get me thrown out of Red Sox Nation but, The Mick was by far the best Centerfielder in all of baseball. - Hands down

  • Michael Pal[ February 18th, 2011 @ 9:54pm ]

    Great story Louie. Hard to believe it has been 17 years since you explained the importance and proper usage of mirrors when I was a new Bus Operator of yours at Walnut Depot! A lesson worth repeating. I was wondering what you think of side view cameras?

  • Greg Williams[ February 15th, 2012 @ 4:01am ]

    Hotly debated topic for sure. We have combined mirrors (flat/convex). With this combo which mirror do you use for monitioring the rear wheel/curb versus a protruding street sign(mid bus)near the top of the bus window?


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Author Bio

Joyce Rose

President/CEO, Operation Lifesaver Inc.

Joyce Rose is President and CEO of Operation Lifesaver Inc., a national, non-profit safety education group whose goal is to eliminate deaths and injuries at railroad crossings and along railroad rights-of-way.

Steve Mentzer

Manager, Transit Simulations, Training & Courseware, L-3 D.P. Associates

Steve Mentzer is manager, transit simulations, training & courseware, at L-3 D.P. Associates.

Louie Maiello

Louie Maeillo is a Sr. Consultant (Transit Training & Simulation), L-3 / DPA Independent Consultant, Bus Talk Surface Transit Solutions

Jason Palmer

President, SmartDrive Systems

Palmer is the president of SmartDrive Systems, a leader in providing comprehensive, video-based operator performance and safety programs to help transit agencies achieve operational safety and efficiency, protect operators and the public, and lower costs overall.

Barak Israel

product manager

Barak Israel is product marketing manager for the security domain for NICE Systems Inc.

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