Collisions involving buses turning left and pedestrian contact usually result in serious injuries and, sometimes, fatalities. All instructors should be aware of the top collision types that are occurring at their organization and what corrective actions to apply. I have had much success in administering corrective actions on a bus simulator when dealing with this high-risk issue. Allowing the student to see the results of an incorrect skill application in the low-risk environment of a simulator leaves a lasting impression on the student.
As you begin to categorize your collision types, look strongly at those left-side pedestrian contact collisions — what I like to call the "strong side," the side with more visibility and less visual obstructions.
I often hear of these so-called "blind spots" on the left side that cause knockdowns. A quick trip to the dictionary will reveal that a blind spot is "something not visible to the naked eye or in the equipment provided." In our case, the equipment provided are the mirrors. This would mean that there is one true blind spot that cannot be seen by the naked eye, or in the equipment provided, and it is the area directly behind the bus by the engine door area. Pedestrians obstructed behind the left mirror or left corner post as the bus is turning left are simply temporary obstructions, not blind spots! They are not blind spots because you can see them with the naked eye by moving in the seat around the mirrors and corner post.
In most cases, you will see misuse of the real-view and the convex mirrors. Real-view mirrors are set too high, along with too much bus visible in the mirror. The 1/5-rule of mirror setup solves this problem. That's the subject of a future blog. Many left-side incidents occur when the operator is moving out of the bus stop and when conducting left turns. Also, check how many of these pedestrian knockdowns have occurred on the operator's swing or finish trip.
The main causes of collisions and knockdowns while conducting left turns are:
- Failure of Bus Operator to "read" the intersection for the condition of traffic light (stale/fresh) and pedestrian activity before approaching the intersection.
- Excessive speed while turning - not covering the brake.
- Insufficient and untimely mirror scans.
- Failure to pause and glance over left shoulder while positioned at the intersection.
- Left-side real-view mirror not set up properly (Set too high and seeing the top of the right/left tire areas).
- Not "expanding" the view from the left-side mirror by not "crunching forward" over steering wheel or "rocking and rolling" in the seat to see around the temporary obstructions.
- "Bully me-first attitude" into a left turn without sufficient clearance from oncoming opposite direction vehicles.
- Incorrect positioning and use of the driver-side convex mirror, using the convex (distorted) view mirror instead of "real" view mirror (incorrectly set at the bottom of the rear tire area).
We must do a better job of introducing the proper set-up and the roles of both the real-view and convex mirrors to student operators. We need to have instructors that are on the same page in what they are teaching.
A standardized curriculum is the other ingredient. Many instructors, one message! Remember, if the convex mirror is positioned on the rear tire and has become the main driving mirror, it's just a matter of time before a serious incident will occur. The real-view mirror should be the main driving mirror, with it positioned to see just in front of the rear tires, while the convex should be positioned to see the area mid and away from the bus to just over the left shoulder of the operator — the maximum view along the left of the bus to compensate for an operator who fails to crunch, rock and roll, in the seat. If these mirrors have been reversed in their positioning, it's time to fix the problem before "the big one" becomes a reality.
Soon after reaching my 20th year in the transit industry, back in 1993, after a draining day of addressing routine bus issues, I would cross paths with another employee, who I always remember, seemed to be quietly “doing his own little daily gig.”
Years ago, I was with Louie Maiello when someone walked over and asked him for some advice: “We’re having problems with people remembering to secure the bus before they leave their seat. Do you have any advice? How can we get them to remember?” Without missing a beat, Louie said “PIN it.” The advice seeker happened to be a veteran mechanic, so he understood and walked away to resume his work. I stood there for a while scratching my head. Pin it?
Diagnose, Prescribe & Follow-Up, are the usual doctor’s actions that are utilized when visiting the doctor’s office for whatever is ailing us. This formula should also apply within your training department with regard to the ailment of Bus Collisions.
If we encourage our operators to treat operating a bus as a shift-long Zen moment, we may be able to reduce preventable crashes by a significant amount. The “Zen Operator,” who drives precisely at all times, is also less stressed. The Zen Operator flows through difficult, tight situations easily and their body language and vibe give passengers a sense of confidence. The operator whose passengers have a white-knuckle death grip on the back of the seat in front of them is not practicing “Zen Bus Operation.”
Ah, summer. Pool parties, barbecues, the smell of honeysuckle and the sight of lightning bugs. Or — a rise in crime, agitated riders seeking air conditioning, heat stroke, a new fiscal year, and the necessary, but unpopular, fare increases. However you view the summer months, with a direct correlation between high temperatures and increased crime, it's vital for transit leaders to be asking themselves, "Have we done everything possible to keep our people safe?"