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Sep 20

$2.5m settlement, a pedestrian’s foot are the cost of incompetence & refusal by NJ Transit to address problem of bus driver blind spots

Silver Spring, MD – A $2.5 million settlement for a pedestrian who lost his foot in a preventable crosswalk bus accident highlights the refusal of the NJ Transit to address the dangerous problem of huge bus driver blind spots created by poor bus design says the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Roughly one pedestrian every ten days is killed by a transit bus in the U.S. Buses have huge left hand mirrors, mounted in critical sight lines, that needlessly block the driver's vision and cause fatal pedestrian accidents. In fact, from the point of view of the bus driver, a dozen or more pedestrians may be hidden behind the massive "A" pillar and left side mirror at any given time.

The NJ Transit bus hit the pedestrian in a Newark crosswalk as the driver was turning left. The driver first claimed the pedestrian walked into the bus but later admitted he was checking his mirrors and didn't see the man until he hit him.

“A $2.5 million settlement and a man’s foot are the cost of incompetence and the refusal of NJ Transit to address the serious problem of huge bus mirrors creating driver blind spots,” said ATU International President Larry Hanley. “Crosswalks are the industry’s Achilles heel and blind spots for operators created by poor bus design are the reason why.”

While NJ Transit recognizes the blind spot hazards of buses with huge mirrors, they are not changing the mirrors or A pillars, but instead they are adding 360 cameras. The cameras are only useful in bus zones or backing but they are absolutely not a substitute for unobstructed vision of drivers. Furthermore, a bus driver looking at a video screen in mid-turn increases risk substantially.

ATU has developed cost-effective mirror bus designs that have been adopted by other transit systems and have reduced the death toll from blind spot accidents.

The poor bus design forces bus operators to resort to bobbing and weaving in their seat -- the "rock and roll" method – in an attempt to see around these massive pillars and mirrors. However, it only moves the blind angle and does not eliminate it.

The Federal Transit Administration has studied bus driver blind spots as long ago as a 2008 study and officially warned all transit agencies about the design flaw killing pedestrians, however, the agencies have refuse to fix it.

There are buses being produced and used in Europe that have 180 degrees of unobstructed vision, but transit agencies across North America refuse to buy these buses, or demand that manufacturers keep up. Furthermore, there is a fix for the driver blind spot that costs the manufacturer under $300 per bus. That’s far less than the so-called safety add-ons.

“The solution is staring NJ Transit right in the face, but they continue to ignore it. Change the design of buses to remove the unnecessary blind spots so bus drivers can fulfill their mission to move New Yorkers safely,” Hanley continued. “Until they make a change to take the blindfolds off of bus drivers, people will continue to be maimed and even killed in these preventable accidents because of their inaction.”