By Stephanie Shenouda, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 12, 2013
The wheels on the Blue Buses went round and round Monday — straight into trouble.
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Three University buses were involved in accidents Monday, a figure that Keith Johnson, associate director of transportation operations, said is very unusual. Two of the accidents reportedly resulted in victim injuries. While Johnson didn’t have specific statistics, he said even one incident a week would be considered too frequent.
Johnson added that per University protocol, all three accidents are still under investigation separately.
“Each accident is evaluated on an individual basis to assess what the situation and the severity was,” he said. “We also examine whether or not it was a preventable or a non-preventable situation and respond accordingly.”
Johnson explained that an action review committee, consisting of a formally appointed supervisor and a representative from Risk Management Services, exists in order to debrief with the drivers after they’ve been involved in an accident. He said the penalties faced, if any, depend on the severity of the situation and if any damage or injuries occurred.
One of Monday's accidents, which was reported to police and logged as a “hit and run,” is being reconsidered after an investigation gave University authorities reason to believe that this was not the case.
“After what we’ve investigated so far, we have reason to believe it was not a hit and run, but a miscommunication between the two drivers,” Johnson said. “Because of the location of the accident, the (bus) driver couldn’t stop and was going to a more appropriate location.”
Johnson also said he couldn’t think of a good reason why a University bus driver would commit a hit and run as opposed to dealing with the incident.
Although University bus-driving positions are posted publicly, applicants undergo a thorough hiring process to ensure they know the rules of the road. Johnson said drivers are formally trained and educated as commercial drivers before they’re hired to drive the big Blue Buses.
University Police spokeswoman Diane Brown said the incidents were unrelated. While witnesses allege that one accident resulted in a woman having a seizure and being taken away by ambulance, Brown could not comment on victim medical status.
LSA sophomore Catherine Culkin, who was hit by a blue bus Monday while riding her bike on Hill Street, said in an e-mail interview that the bus hit her as it was turning onto Greene Street from Hill Street. Culkin said the police found the bus driver at fault.
"It looked like the driver was stopping; much to my dismay, I guess he just didn't see me," Culkin said.
Though she initially told police she was uninjured as a result of the incident, her body was very sore when she woke up the next morning. Culkin has contacted Risk Management Services to request reimbursement for damage sustained by her bike.
LSA junior James Kehoe has been a University bus driver since May 2011.
“I’ve always liked driving so this is basically the perfect job for me,” Kehoe said. “It pays well and it’s getting me through school, even if it is a little crazy sometimes.”
Two months into his career as a Blue Bus driver, he got into an accident driving a bus, which he said “happens to everyone at some point.”
“I was pulling out of a (bus) stop and hit another car,” Kehoe said. “I followed all of the procedures and because the damages weren’t over $1,000 I didn’t get a ticket.”
Kehoe added that his meeting with the Action Review Committee was helpful, as the committee members were encouraging but explained that it was a “preventable accident.” The committee also explained how to avoid accidents in the future.
While Kehoe didn’t know the specifics of any of the events from this week, he said, in his experience, winter weather often contributes to an increase in the number and severity of accidents.