Metro says taped near-misses improve bus safety

LANDOVER, Md. — The distracted Metrobus driver didn’t notice the light had turned red, and had to stop quickly as he approached pedestrians in a downtown crosswalk.

The drivers reaction: “My bad.”

This scenario was one of many similar incidents captured on video by Metro’s DriveCam in the last year. In fact, these videos show drivers failing to stop at stop signs, stopping short to avoid merging cars and buses rear-ending cars.

But the transit authority says showing the videotaped errors to other bus drivers is a valuable training tool.

Metrobus installed the cameras on buses in 2010. The cameras record eight-seconds before, as well as four-seconds after, any sudden braking, swerve, or impact.

“Based on where we started in 2010, and we are now, we’re light years ahead,” says Gerald Collins, service operation manager, with Metrobus.

After a public records request, Metro supervisors showed WTOP a half-dozen clips. Metro would not allow the videos to be made public, citing driver privacy.

In early 2012, Metro made several hundred video clips available to the public. Metro now says the videos are a training tool, and refuses to make them public.

Collins says he thinks DriveCam has improved the Metrobus safety record.

According to figures provided by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro, the bus passenger injury rate has improved three consecutive years since the introduction of DriveCam.

Metro says in 2010 there were 2.9 injuries per million trips. In 2011, 2.39 per million trips, and 2.22 per million trips last year.

Collins says drivers are expected to operate according to schedule, but not at the expense of passenger, pedestrian, and bicyclist well-being.

“The most important thing about this whole process is to be safe,” says Collins.

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