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roamer

The Deadly "Blind Spot" on Transit Buses

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On 9/10/2017 at 9:47 PM, captaintrolley said:

Thank you captaintrolley.  As you know but others here may not, the ATU International is now ramping up their focus on this problem and it is included in their "Workstation Initiative" set of proposals.  

I've attached several pages from the ATU magazine, InTransit, May/June 2017 Issue (can be seen in its entirety HERE in a pdf).

One is the separate page titled "Blind Spot Accidents 'scar drivers for the longest time'"

But the page that follows sums up the EXACT POINTS made in this ENTIRE thread !!!!   

TOP 10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BUS BLIND SPOTS

Again, for those interested, you can read the entire ATU Workstation Initiative that includes all aspects of bus driver safety, health, and accident prevention pertaining to their "workstation" in the May/June 2017 magazine HERE

Since I know the ATU now has this issue firmly in their focus, I not only can rest a little easier but maybe we can now put this thread to rest.  

Thanks everyone for putting up with this thread.

MJ_IT17_web.pdf.png

Blind Spot Accidents 'scar drivers for the longest time.pdf

TOP 10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BUS BLIND SPOTS.pdf

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17 hours ago, captaintrolley said:

Just need to get the non ATU agencies on board with this.

True.  Not sure how to go about that.  TWU, the next largest bus drivers' union doesn't appear to be as committed to the problem even though a huge of its members have also been involved with left-turn-pedestrian accidents.  I have written and emailed their officers several times and have been ignored.   Their convention is next week and I don't see a single resolution and their agenda that comes close addressing it.

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Oh, forgive me.  Not only am I in the U.S. and not as familiar as I should be pertaining to Canadian unions, I'm participating on a Canadian message board forum.  I'm embarrassed.  So does Unifor represent the majority of drivers working for Canadian public transit agencies across Canada?  For some reason, I was thinking that Unifor was the new auto workers' union. 

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1 hour ago, roamer said:

Oh, forgive me.  Not only am I in the U.S. and not as familiar as I should be pertaining to Canadian unions, I'm participating on a Canadian message board forum.  I'm embarrassed.  So does Unifor represent the majority of drivers working for Canadian public transit agencies across Canada?  For some reason, I was thinking that Unifor was the new auto workers' union. 

Unifor is what used to be CAW Canadian Auto Workers.  Most of Canada is ATU as far as I know.  Maybe some of the smaller systems are something else.  No need for embarrassment - we all bring our own specialty to the board, that's what makes it so diverse and interesting.

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I did a little online research and have listed the driver's unions for Canada's ten largest public transit systems, in terms of service area populations according to Wikipedia:

Toronto Transit Commission: ATU 113

Coast Mountain Bus Company (Vancouver): Unifor 111

Société de Transport de Montréal: CUPE 1983 (Canadian Union of Public Employees)

Calgary Transit: ATU 583

OC Transpo (Ottawa): ATU 279

York Region Transit: ATU 113, ATU 1587, and UFCW 206 (United Food and Commercial Workers)

Edmonton Transit Service: ATU 569

MiWay (Mississauga): ATU 1572

Winnipeg Transit: ATU 1505

Durham Region Transit: Unifor 222

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Thanks, Tom!  I was going to do some research on it myself today.  You've saved me the time to do that tedious exercise.  Much appreciated! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Edited to add:  Since I've received a lot of criticism, some in this very thread, arguing that any well-trained and conscientious bus driver should be able to compensate for the "blind spot" (the wide A-pillar and large left mirror mounted at eye-height), the one quote from that page titled "Blind Spot Accidents 'scar drivers for the longest time" which many should try to understand is this:

"No matter how well he or she is trained, it only takes a split second for a blind spot to fool a driver into thinking no one's in the way"

Believe me, I personally can attest to that.  Even though I was trained well, was fully cognizant of the hazard, and also had an exemplary safety record, as mentioned ad nauseam from me in this thread, I came within inches of hitting a pedestrian while making a left turn in a bus.  Why I was able to come to a sudden stop before mowing down the pedestrian who was legally crossing the street in a crosswalk and other drivers highlighted in this thread didn't as they did come in contact with the person crossing the street either killing or severely injuring them, is WAY beyond my comprehension. 

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On 9/19/2017 at 11:08 AM, roamer said:


Edited to add:  Since I've received a lot of criticism, some in this very thread, arguing that any well-trained and conscientious bus driver should be able to compensate for the "blind spot" (the wide A-pillar and large left mirror mounted at eye-height), the one quote from that page titled "Blind Spot Accidents 'scar drivers for the longest time" which many should try to understand is this:

"No matter how well he or she is trained, it only takes a split second for a blind spot to fool a driver into thinking no one's in the way"

Believe me, I personally can attest to that.  Even though I was trained well, was fully cognizant of the hazard, and also had an exemplary safety record, as mentioned ad nauseam from me in this thread, I came within inches of hitting a pedestrian while making a left turn in a bus.  Why I was able to come to a sudden stop before mowing down the pedestrian who was legally crossing the street in a crosswalk and other drivers highlighted in this thread didn't as they did come in contact with the person crossing the street either killing or severely injuring them, is WAY beyond my comprehension. 

I bought a new car recently (a Mazda). Like most new cars, it is way safer than anything I've ever owned before. It also comes with big, thick, A-pillars. In my close to 20 years of car ownership, I occasionally make a turn and find myself totally blinded (particularly to the right side) by the A-pillar and have to "bob and weave" my head to see around it as I make my turn.

 

I never thought I'd be using bus driving techniques in my own car!

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19 hours ago, northwesterner said:

I bought a new car recently (a Mazda). Like most new cars, it is way safer than anything I've ever owned before. It also comes with big, thick, A-pillars. In my close to 20 years of car ownership, I occasionally make a turn and find myself totally blinded (particularly to the right side) by the A-pillar and have to "bob and weave" my head to see around it as I make my turn.

 

I never thought I'd be using bus driving techniques in my own car!

Ditto. Ever since I started following this thread, I've come to actually be way more vigilant on turns in my car bobbing and weaving.

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Thanks for the comments.  

Yes, I agree that we all have to do a certain amount of "bobbing and weaving" when driving our own cars.  I especially have to be aware when driving my pickup because of its larger mirrors.  

However, to me personally, there was a significant difference when driving a bus.  When in my car or even pickup, I can usually cover the blind area with a less exaggerated bob-and-weave in order to be confident that nobody is being hidden by the blind area.  

In a bus, I had to do a lot more twisting-and-turning of the body to see around the obstructions.  When the KCM Gillig Phantoms were new and  had the infamous 8" x 15" mirror housing mounted where the top of the housing was several inches above eye height, I'd actually have to stand up out of the seat** at times so I could see above the housing as there was very little visual distance between the mirror housing and the A-pillar making the blind area almost like one big block where I couldn't bob-and-weave quickly enough to satisfy myself that there were no pedestrians hidden behind the blockage.  

Once KCM in Seattle went to the smaller mirror and mounted it in a much lower position, the difference was phenomenal.  The stress was immediately lifted as the exaggerated rock-and-roll and twisting of the body --and standing up out of the seat-- to see around or above the mirror housing was no longer necessary.  Sure, still needed was a more reasonable but required bob-and-weave but nowhere near the hardship of performing the overstated physical movements of trying to see around the obstacles in order to be sure no pedestrians were hidden behind the mirror and A-pillar.  

As somebody else mentioned toward the beginning of the thread more-or-less putting all the blame on  bus drivers for these accidents, that even car drivers must compensate for the same blind area so why is it any different for a professional bus driver?  As I say, all drivers have to compensate for blind spots but it's just so much more to compensate for in a bus that has a large mirror mounted at eye-level and a thick A-pillar.  

** see 3:00 in the video below which is the one about SEPTA linked previously in this thread where another bus driver points out that it is sometimes necessary to stand up out of the seat in order to adequately compensate for the mirror housing blocking the ability to see pedestrians.   

https://vimeo.com/110666609

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4 hours ago, rickycourtney said:

Thank you for this, rickycourtney.  

"It remains unclear if the city believes blind spots are an issue, or contribute to more collisions."  I get frustrated when I still read statements such as this.  At this point, it should be perfectly clear that blind spots are in fact an issue.

As I stated previously, the vast majority of transit managers, and probably all the directors of major transit agencies, have never driven transit buses in service over a long period of time.  We're making progress as more and more transit managers are realizing the problem but it's been a quite a process in convincing them to seriously understand the issue.  Just as the manager at TriMet refused to acknowledge that the blind spot had any contribution to the horrendous accident in Portland OR in 2010, many transit managers still hold to that mentality  ...and that bus drivers should easily be able to compensate for the blind spot merely by "bobbing-and-weaving or rocking-and-rolling" in the drivers' seat -- it's an elementary and uncomplicated solution to them.  It is an easy way out to simply put the entire blame for such accidents on the bus driver. 

And it's worth reiterating that I still believe and adamantly insist it's the responsibility of the employer to provide SAFE equipment for the bus operators to drive. 

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It looks as if NovaBus might be doing something about the drivers' visibility problems:

http://novabus.com/2017/10/01/industry-leading-operators-field-view/

Industry Leading – Operator’s field of view

Translating from French:

  1. Extra-large glass for the bus driver: Improves visibility for the operator who sees road users more easily mainly during turns.
  2. Simple windshield: Allows the bus driver to have a clear and unobstructed surrounding view.
  3. 1/3 - 2/3 door: Increases visibility of the sidewalk thanks to the large glass area.
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7 hours ago, tomsbuspage said:

It looks as if NovaBus might be doing something about the drivers' visibility problems:

http://novabus.com/2017/10/01/industry-leading-operators-field-view/

Industry Leading – Operator’s field of viewE

Translating from French:

  1. Extra-large glass for the bus driver: Improves visibility for the operator who sees road users more easily mainly during turns.
  2. Simple windshield: Allows the bus driver to have a clear and unobstructed surrounding view.
  3. 1/3 - 2/3 door: Increases visibility of the sidewalk thanks to the large glass area.

 

Thanks, Tom!  Yes, that's definitely an improvement.  The A-pillar still could stand to be a bit narrower but what is a drastic improvement to me is the LOCATION of the left mirror.  It is mounted lower and thus makes it much easier to see over the top of the housing in order to have a much improved view when making a left turn.  This proves that a larger mirror housing can still be used as long as it's mounted in a position so as not to become a visual obstruction for the driver.  Imagine if it was mounted higher in that particular illustration  ...the bicyclist would be hidden behind the mirror housing.  

 

 

 

1 hour ago, Transit geek said:

Have they tried using cameras to rectify the problem? At least, that's what Yarra Trams of Melbourne is doing to its latest E-class trams which suffer from similar problems:

 

Thanks, Transit geek!  Yes, I believe that I did see that somewhere else where a camera was proposed to be used in a bus to help a driver overcome the blind spot created by the A-pillar when making a left turn.  It could work.  I would have welcomed trying it out to see just how effective it would be.

However, for me personally, I still believe that it would be much more effective and much less expensive just to move the left mirror housing so it wouldn't block the driver's view when making a left turn.  For me, I found I could adequately compensate for a thick A-pillar but found it difficult to do so when a large left mirror housing was mounted at my eye-height in combination with a thick A-pillar.   

On my last diesel pusher motorhome, there were side-view cameras mounted on both sides which are now quite common on motorhomes.  They display on a monitor the area along the side of the coach.   I guess they're supposed to be a substitute for using mirrors while changing lanes as they are activated whenever the turn signals are used.  As a former bus driver, I found them distracting and ineffective and ended up just disabling the feature.  I was used to using mirrors correctly ...especially the convex mirrors to eliminate blind spots.    I wonder if such cameras which attempt to eliminate the blind area behind the A-pillar would also be as distracting to me?  I don't know.

I think I posted this before but it's always worth posting again.  It's from Brian Sherlock who was once a driver for KCM in Seattle and union officer at ATU Local 587.  It sums up the what this thread is all about:

Many buses have built-in blind spots that make driving them dangerous

 

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