A discussion about bus operator reaction time will no doubt bring many different opinions on its definition. There are formulas to come up with reaction time and, maybe I'm the lone wolf on this subject, but breaking down the science of reaction time for bus operators is something I did not spend much time doing. Allow me to share with you something that I feel is of greater importance, the "Adverse Reaction Tip Off!"
As training professionals, we don't believe that collisions, knockdowns and on-board injuries just happen. For every incident on the road, there is usually a warning or a tip-off. Identifying this tip-off comes with experience. There are many of them, but let's look at a few:
1) A vehicle stopped at the intersection to the left of the bus with front tires pointed a bit to the right and/or the driver of that vehicle looking to the right at the cross street.
2) A pedestrian walking right-side same direction of bus wearing headphones or talking on the cell phone.
3) A curbside pedestrian waving his or her hand in the direction of the bus.
4) A ball rolling into the street.
5) Visible exhaust, brake lights, or a front tire moving left or right from a parked vehicle.
These are just a few that student/veteran operators must identify. Why not add to this list and compile them into a nice handout for distribution to your operators.
Case #1: The operator failed to read the tip-off and accelerated with the auto rather than pause two seconds to allow the vehicle to turn from left to right across the path of the bus. Avoid the abrupt braking and on-board injuries, and expect the left-to-right move by the vehicle whenever in this position.
Case #2: If the operator has not created a space cushion between the curb and his/her bus and fails to cover the brake in anticipation of a 'step out' into the roadway by a pedestrian, he or she has not identified the tip-off. Sounding the horn is not the solution; it won't reduce the speed of the bus. Sounding the horn can have purpose as a communication tool after you have removed your foot from the accelerator and placed it over the brake pedal should a stop be necessary.
Case #3: The person waving his or her hand may be hailing a taxi that may be not yet be visible to the operator. Read this waving hand by the pedestrian as a tip-off alert that momentarily there may be a vehicle making an abrupt stop in the bus path. The immediate actions that should occur include taking the foot off the accelerator, placing it over the brake and checking the mirrors.
Case #4: The easiest of all to identify — a ball rolling into the street, possibly being followed by a child.
Case #5: There can be several 'parked' vehicle-related tip-offs to identify. Increased 'eye lead' time will make this possible and give the operator the edge to see it early, and then react early.
What do you think? Am I a lone wolf, or do you share my views? Let me know. Share your own tip-offs here in the Comments section and we will see if we get enough for you to copy and paste as a student handout.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "OCTA CEO: Sales tax program delivers success to voters and transit" here.
When official-plated transit authority vehicles were scarce and basically reserved for those in upper management to go about their daily business to and from meetings, etc..., road control would be the responsibility of the “fixed-post foot dispatcher.” Not all of these positions have been eliminated, but I wonder if any readers remember the stability and sense of control that was present while the foot dispatcher was on post?
One agency decided to conduct a “safety blitz” to determine whether mirrors were being set correctly and discovered, much to their surprise, that a growing number of operators were leaving the yard in a mad rush to avoid being late — deciding to adjust their mirrors at their first available opportunity. What they learned was that many of these operators left the yard with every intention of setting their mirrors correctly. However, once these operators began servicing their routes — the task appeared to "slip their minds."
Bus operators are not blindfolded. Operators are trained and required to identify potential hazards, based on their forward planning skills. With regard to left turns, these so called “blind spots” are really areas behind the left A-pillar/mirror that are “temporarily” obstructed to the operator, not blind to the operator. The key here is for the operators to utilize their observation and forward planning skills to minimize the time that their vision is temporarily obstructed. The pedestrian that regrettably becomes a victim of bus contact should be in the clear view of the operator long before arriving at the location where the contact occurred. Pedestrians are not “coming out of nowhere!"
The world is a very busy place. We rely on our eyes to provide us with information that will keep us from harm as we operate our vehicles. It is difficult to over-emphasize the importance of effective scanning in order to recognize potential hazards early enough so appropriate action can be taken to avoid conflict. As a result, we spend a lot of time advising operators how often they should scan their mirrors, where to look for hazards, and how to bring objects into view that may be temporarily obstructed, and so on.
Today I’d like to mention a few effective policies that were routinely utilized in the past, which were (and for the few agencies that still practice them) very effective in producing safe bus operators, including covering your right, terminal checks and company vehicles.