Sunday, March 08, 2009

THE ACCIDENT

Recently, there was a very tragic accident involving a bus hitting and killing a woman. The driver is a co-worker I actually was in training with about eight and a half years ago. Really nice guy.

There have been conflicting stories around the drivers room. I'm not sure what is exactly the truth. Seems the only thing that every story has the same is that the woman was crossing the street and the bus was turning and hit her. She was dragged about 20 feet and died. The driver never knew anything happened. He was called a mile or two away and stopped the bus. He was given the standard drug and alcohol tests and put on leave. Not even the passengers on the bus knew anything happened. From what I heard, even in the video, the woman was barely visible because she was wearing all dark colors. The bus was one of the new hybrids with the digital camera out the front window to show everything in front of the bus. Seems she walked into the side of the bus somewhere near the front tire. This was truly a tragic accident.

The buzz around the drivers room now is that the driver was fired. Many drivers are very angry about this. It was an ACCIDENT!! Not one driver can say they haven't had numerous close calls. This time, it just wasn't avoided. Just a week or so ago when I was driving down Nicollet Mall, an older woman came out of a business and was walking quickly toward the street. She was looking the opposite direction as she stepped out into the street about 7-8 feet in front of my bus. I blew my horn and she hopped back onto the curb, grabbing her chest out of fear. She gave me a very relieved smile and waved as if to say "thank you" I shook my head and waved back and I was on my way. If I hadn't happened to notice her coming out of the store among all the other people on the mall, I probably would have hit her. It is all too common. People just don't check for traffic. They assume we will see them. There are many large blind spots on the bus and it is easy NOT to see someone.

Logic tells you, that eventually someone is going to be hit. In fact, the news reported there were 3 city bus/pedestrian deaths in nearly 10 years. That amazes me. Knowing how many I have been lucky enough to avoid in the past eight and a half years and multiplying that by about 2000 bus drivers...it's amazing there aren't more people killed. I think it is very wrong to fire the driver. In fact, some drivers talked about having a day we all call in sick to show our support for him. We all realize that it could have been any of us. One driver said that would probably not be supported by the Union and suggested we all sign a petition for him to be hired back...no loss of pay or seniority. I am more than willing to sign a petition. I thank God it wasn't me. I can't imagine living with the fact that you killed someone even though it was an accident. Then you are fired??!!??? That is just wrong.

My heart goes out to the family of the lady that died. Seeing the news on TV and in the paper, she seemed to be a wonderful person. She loved music. She traveled and brought back the music from the places she had been. She shared this music and cultural food from the places she visited with her family and friends. She just seemed like a genuinely great person. It is a true loss to her family, friends and the entire community. I bet even she wouldn't want the driver to have to not only live his life knowing he drove the bus that killed her, but to lose his job on top of it. It's just wrong.

There, but for the grace of God...

23 Comments:

Blogger minneapolismayor said...

I agree; if there is no proof of wrongdoing, than no one should be fired. However, there are a couple things the agency should do...

Buses are not as well lit on the outside as they used to be. Therefore, it is harder to see them. While the hybrid buses are better for the environment, they are also fairly quiet and that means that older people will have a harder time detecting them that way. So visibility is key. The worst models are about two dozen hybrids that were added to the system in 2007 and are painted green. These vehicles are very difficult to see at night, especially on dark streets where the green is about as bad as black. They need to paint all the buses with white and the old reflective red stripe on the sides, and increase the lighting on the front of the bus. It might help drivers see better too.

Perhaps if Mpls ticketed jaywalkers like DT St Paul does, you wouldn't have so many white-knuckle experiences on the Nicollet Mall...

6:53 PM  
Blogger Jeanne Ree said...

The new hybrids have different lighting in the bus that makes it darker outside. You can turn the curbside lights off so there is less reflection in the windshield. It helps enormously, but I think they should do it like the regular buses. The front curbside row of lights goes out when the doors close, but the rest of the curbside aisle lights remain on. That is best. It provides light in the bus, out the windows and takes away the windshield glare.

I'd love to see people get jaywalking tickets on the mall. The buses are supposed to pull up close so people can't cut through and get hit by buses coming the opposite way, but I see many drivers not doing that.

Thanks for your comment!

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if I would *want* to go back to work if I was still driving and something like that happened. Nevertheless, to justify firing the guy, there really ought to be some evidence of negligence either in the accident itself or in the post-accident handling.

I don't know MT policies, but from how I have seen buses drive down Nicollet Mall, I would guess there is a fairly low (10-15 mph?) speed limit in place, which I'm sure cuts down on the pedestrian accidents there. If I recall the news story correctly, this was 46th and Minnehaha, which would probably have no such speed limit. I've never seen tons of pedestrians in that area, and it seems really strange that someone could manage to walk off into the bus. I suppose it would have to be after the left turn onto Minnehaha? (I'm assuming the bus was going northbound because I don't think it would have been described as so far away if it was just going to 46th St. Station.)

It's a real shame, any way you look at it. I wish the best for the driver and the family of the pedestrian.

- Andrew

11:59 PM  
Blogger Ted Bell said...

Yeah, the news accounts say it was Route 24 going to downtown from the 46th St. Station. The route would have been turning left at that corner and going 4 blocks up Minnehaha, after which it will weave through some quiet neighborhoods, which is where the driver was called. The owner of this blog has mentioned that she drives this route now and again, so she could probably tell you how well-lit the route is and whether she has had scrapes in this area.

What I would say is that pedestrians in that area, particularly at that intersection, should watch for buses, not because they are driven erratically, but because there are 5 routes that go past that corner (24, 27, 46, 74, 84--and the first two both make the left onto Minnehaha), and they all run generally every half hour or more. That's 20 trips an hour even during off-peak! Look both ways!

11:02 AM  
Blogger John Charles Wilson said...

Scary! This reminds me of an accident about 3 years ago in Rochester, MN. A teenage girl was Rollerblading on the shoulder of Hwy. 63 just south of DT Rochester. There is no sidewalk on the part of the road she was on. Traffic and terrain-wise it is comparable to University or Central Ave. in Fridley. She was listening to music through headphones. A friend of hers waved to her on the other side of the road, she swerved into traffic to wave back. She never heard (and I hope never felt) the Rochester City Lines bus that smacked into her at 30 MPH. Headphones and Rollerblading or bicycling just simply don't mix!!!!

2:17 PM  
Blogger John Charles Wilson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:17 PM  
Blogger John Charles Wilson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:17 PM  
Anonymous BostonRed said...

Pedestrians always have the right away,it is the Law.
We can not have bus drivers killing people in the streets.

In the early 90s we helped with defence of a driver(former IBM type) that killed a woman riding a bike on the mall.
He was made redundant and re-hired,them redundant again.

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jeanne, it's treacherous out there tonight. I'm surprised there aren't more accidents. I got on your # 6 over to Uptown, this evening, (you asked if my name was "Don" which I thought was neat), and there were parked cars pulling out right in front of the bus, all sorts of things going on out there. Very slippery walking, too. i got out of Kowalski's and was basically "skating" back to the bus to get back downtown. Glad I wasn't driving. Great blog, by the way. - brian in downtown

1:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It really is amazing that there aren't more accidents. This morning, I was on the 10, which had a close call turning left onto Nicollet Mall because an oncoming driver ran a red light at probably 30-35 mph after the bus had started its turn (with the green arrow). Had the bus driver not nailed the brakes, there would have been a wreck.

- Andrew

10:24 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

You reported the "firing" as the "buzz around the drivers room." Have you been able to verify that yet? I hope it was only a rumor; I agree with you entirely about the unfairness of the firing given what we know.

Please keep us updated on this story.

9:58 PM  
Anonymous gabbespal said...

Yes, it was a tragedy what happen to this driver. He is a very nice guy, as I too work with him. As far as the girl in Rochester, did you know that she was mentally challenged and she was on the city streets, not out on a highway. Also, the driver that hit her went to court and had to serve three months for negalence, because his boss would not give him the video tape to prove that he was not the sole cause of the accident, that she rollerbladed out in front of him and he could not stop. Yes, I know alot about the story because I was one of the organizers who got them unionized so they would be able to fight things like this. Also, he did not have proper training and his dad is the boss's right hand man. It is too bad for him that the union was not around at that time or he may never had to serve jail time.

Accidents do happen, but alot of times they can be prevented by using common sense. Realizing that a big vehicle such as a bus or semi need more time to stop or more room to turn. I have a saying that goes We can not stop on a dime and give you nine cents change.

4:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ticket jaywalkers, particularly on Nicollet mall, then require them to attend an educational demonstration in which a bus driver shows the group the actual stopping distance of a city bus at various speeds and under icy conditions. (skidpad) Also show the effects of a bus hitting a pedestrian at various speeds by constructing dummies out of watermelons and running into them. Maybe getting covered with watermelon gore from 15 feet away will shake them up enough to get them to not dart into the street in front of 20 tons of moving metal.

On the subject of the accident, it sounds like the woman was standing too close to the curb. I ride the 17, and when we turn from Nicollet onto 24th, I notice that even though the driver is swinging wide, the side of the bus often comes right up or over the curb as it’s turning. Often the wheels don’t jump the curb, but the side of the bus goes over the line. I’ve seen people standing right at the curb have to move back as the side of the bus skims past their noses. Everybody needs to realize that a bus is not a car and has very different handling dynamics. Everyone also has to stop standing a foot out into the street while waiting for the light, risking getting hit isn’t going to get you across any faster.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's been a little while since I've been in that area (and a little while since I've driven a transit bus), but I don't think I would overhang the curb turning left from 46th onto Minnehaha. I'm not saying that's what happened, but if I recall, there is plenty of room there to make the turn without doing that.

- Andrew

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why arn,t you driving anymore Andrew?????????????/

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Riin said...

What's frustrating to me, as a pedestrian and transit user, is how hard it is to find a coat that isn't a dark color. I wear a bright yellow parka because I want to make sure I'm visible in the dark, but I bought it years ago. I've lost a lot of weight, so it's much too large for me now. I've tried to find a new coat, but everything is dark colors. There are short jackets in bright colors, but those won't keep me warm in the middle of winter. I need a coat. I'd rather wear my old yellow parka that's way too big than wear a coat that makes me invisible though.

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a driver and later a training assistant for a transit system in Iowa while I was working on my master's degree. I am getting a doctorate at the U, and while it might be fun to drive again (I occasionally miss it!) I have other things I have to do at the moment.

I did actually apply to be a part-time operator at MT and got offered an interview, but I had another job lined up before they got around to it, it was going to be a while before I would start, and I really needed money sooner at that point.

- Andrew

10:33 PM  
Blogger Bus Driver Dude said...

I don't like Metro Transit's policy " hit a pedestrian your fired". I was told this during training. I get freaked out everytime someone steps in front of me. Some of these people are nuts the way they walk in front of a bus. If it happen the way you say then the union shouild fight for him. I will sure support that.

12:25 AM  
Blogger Jeanne Ree said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Yes, the driver was fired. He is working with the Union to see if he can come back. I know many of us drivers will support him in his efforts as we all are aware that this could easily have happened to any one of us.

The corner where the accident happened is just like any other busy intersection in the city. That's what is so scary. Even people that saw the video, which gives a view out the front window of the bus, can not see the lady or where she came from prior to the accident. It's bizarre.

I just ask everyone to pray for the lady, her family and the bus driver. It was a terrible tragedy and all are deeply affected.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Jeanne Ree said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Yes, the driver was fired. He is working with the Union to see if he can come back. I know many of us drivers will support him in his efforts as we all are aware that this could easily have happened to any one of us.

The corner where the accident happened is just like any other busy intersection in the city. That's what is so scary. Even people that saw the video, which gives a view out the front window of the bus, can not see the lady or where she came from prior to the accident. It's bizarre.

I just ask everyone to pray for the lady, her family and the bus driver. It was a terrible tragedy and all are deeply affected.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Jeanne Ree said...

Flipper - Didn't know u read my blog. Welcome! On the bus, I thought you were a guy I worked with a decade or two ago. His name was Don. Keep enjoying my blog...maybe you will be the next contest winner, since you are one of the few that actually know what I look like!

Riin - Maybe a bright scarf or other accessory would work for you. We do appreciate people making themselves visible, especially in the rain or at night. Thanks!

4:24 PM  
Blogger Martini said...

Riin.....you can also get a reflective vest....similar to a construction worker or a bright colored winter hat. As Jeanne says we ALL appreciate it when you...the pedestrian...takes the initiative to make sure you can be SEEN out there in the dark.

Thanks!

3:50 PM  
Blogger Jeanne Ree said...

Thanks Martini. By the way, your name makes me wanna drink. Hehehe.

5:54 PM  

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