Transit crashes in Ottawa decreased in 2012

Three times out of 10, the bus driver is to blame.

Operators are at fault for roughly 34% of OC Transpo collisions since 2007, the Sun has learned through a Freedom of Information request.

From 2007 to 2011, there were 5,819 crashes, 1,998 of which were preventable.

City buses have averaged 1,164 crashes each year since 2007, meaning drivers were at fault in 400 incidents.

But defensive driving has prevented many more collisions, said transit union vice-president Sharon Bow.

“A lot of the times, we didn’t have an incident,” she said.

And there were just 271 avoidable fender-benders from January to September 2012.

In terms of overall safety, collisions decreased 15% compared to 2011, with 2.3 crashes per 100,000 km, according to OC Transpo’s performance report for the third quarter of 2012.

Cars cutting in front of buses are a major problem for operators.

“You have to remember, we have people standing on a bus, and the bus has to brake really suddenly for some fool’s decision to turn right in front of (the bus). Obviously, you don’t want to hit the vehicle,” Bow said.

“It lunges everybody forward, especially those that are standing. (Unless passengers are at the front) they can’t see what has just transpired.”

People on foot also pose a challenge.

“Pedestrians sometimes don’t realize that this is a 10-tonne vehicle that’s got to stop, that’s got passengers on it,” said Bow.

“‘Oh, I think I’ll just walk in front of the bus.’ Hello! I can just think in my mind how many times a day that happens.”

Multiply that by 800 buses which are on the road daily, then factor in wet roads, snow, or ice.

“I can think of all the times my heart’s been in my throat because of people that will walk in front,” Bow said, adding it’s the “worst possible feeling.”

“You know, it’s not a little Honda,” she said.

One of the most troublesome downtown intersections is Albert St. at Metcalfe St.

It’s mostly younger people darting across traffic, “who think ‘I can beat that car, or I can beat the bus,'” she said.

Those are issues drivers experience year round.

Operators receive an annual refresher on winter driving, since freezing rain and snow add obstacles.

With snowbanks and bus stops that aren’t cleared “it’s a challenge for even the customers to get on the bus in the winter time.”

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