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Metrobus cameras capture shocking collisions, near-misses

Wednesday - 1/11/2012, 9:43pm  ET

MetrobusAccident.jpg
A woman narrowly misses being struck by a Metrobus as she tries to cross the street. (WMATA)

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Collisions, close calls, running red lights, stop sign violations and pedestrian accidents. WTOP has obtained hundreds of shocking video clips showing Metrobuses involved in these types of incidents.

From a bus rear-ending a stopped SUV in a school zone to a pedestrian getting hit by a Metrobus while in the crosswalk, the videos provide a window into what actually happens behind the wheel every day.

The clips were obtained through a Public Access to Records Policy request.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Some of the videos below contain disturbing material and offensive language.

All Metrobuses are now equipped with drivecam systems, which capture these types of incidents. When WTOP asked for drivecam videos from August and September, we received 134 near-collision videos, along with dozens showing collisions, traffic violations and even pedestrian accidents.

"We look at drivecam as coachable moments," Ted Harris, Metro's acting superintendent of bus transportation, tells WTOP.

Harris says that with about 1,200 vehicles on the road every day, Metro generates hundreds of drivecam clips.

"Every vehicle has a camera on it," Harris says. "That's why it is such an intense program to stay on top of it."

When WTOP played a number of clips for Harris, he was quick to assess blame.

"These are typical clips that all our divisions see on a regular basis," he says.

Punishment is applied to operators. Depending on the severity of the violation, it may just take one slip-up to get fired. According to Harris, about 30 bus operators have been terminated for cellphone violations since Feb. 28, 2011.

Operators are also rated on their performance over a 12-month period. For a first-time major preventable collision, a bus operator would get a written warning, three-day suspension and one day paid training. For a second major preventable collision, the operator would receive a 12-day suspension and one day of refresher training. A third violation within a year would warrant termination.

"One of the things we are doing is working with the union to adjust the discipline," Harris says. "We are actually reducing the number of days of suspension and increasing the training days."

After seeing a few more video clips, Harris added that part of the reason for accidents is bus drivers trying to stay on schedule.

Harris says Metrobus operators drive safely on area roads.

"I've worked in Toronto, Los Angeles and Washington. I think our Metrobus operators are the best I've ever worked with."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)