Who has the “right of way?” Is it mine or the other guy’s? When operators think of these situations in terms of “I have the right of way,” it leads to a very possessive attitude and aggressive protection of what is “mine.” An aggressive mindset in an operator obviously increases the chances of a preventable crash.
Thinking of the situation in terms of “who should yield” will lead operators to a less aggressive mindset. Once we get our operators to think in terms of “who should yield,” the logical follow up question to ask is “will they yield?” Once operators start looking at situations with a “yield” attitude, it becomes easier to recognize situations, which may result in preventable crashes. This attitude also comes into play in situations like being cutoff in traffic. It leads operators to the calm outlook: “It’s no big thing — water off a duck’s back.” Hopefully this less aggressive mindset will help reduce preventable crashes.
What of the operator who responds to this attempt to mellow him/her out? “I will never keep my time points” is not a legitimate response, even though it is commonly used. I believe most operators in transit are paid by the hour, so why should they care? As Louie Maiello said in a recent blog, “Transit agencies rarely, if ever, recognize operators for running on time. Operating safely, yes, on time, no. All that is required is for operators to make an honest attempt to run as close to schedule as possible.” We should exercise great caution and make sure we do not inadvertently pressure our operators to cut corners, take chances or drive aggressively in the name of “staying on schedule.”
Incidents, which are determined to be preventable because the operator failed “to do all that is reasonable,” do not deserve the title of preventable accident or preventable collision. Failure to do all that is reasonable means a conscious decision was made to take a course of action, thereby making it impossible to have been an accident. Calling it a collision sounds too cultured and unemotional. It is a crash.
Operators with a less aggressive mindset are more likely to take the time to increase following distance, make square turns, slow down during turns, and not try to beat oncoming traffic or traffic signals during left turns. A less aggressive mindset will also prevent operators from getting “wrapped too tight.” An operator who is not tightly wrapped is much less likely to be taken away in a “rubber bus” and usually provides better customer service, along with safer operation of the vehicle. A less aggressive mindset also equals less stress-related health problems for operators. As we all know, stress leads to increased absenteeism, high heart rate and high blood pressure, as well as many other health and performance issues.
In conclusion, the prudent answer to the question posed at the top should actually be “to yield or not to yield?”
John Filippone is Safety and Training Manager for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority in Aspen, Colo.
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?"