In November, four pedestrians died when public NYC buses hit them while they crossed the street. The series of incidents raised red flags for MTA officials. They’re right to be concerned, and more must be done to prevent such incidents.
In 2014, eight pedestrians died from MTA bus accidents. Last month’s incidents occurred as the city pushed its Vision Zero driver safety initiatives. In September, a settlement from a union lawsuit said bus drivers must abide by the city’s right-of-way law, and can be charged with a misdemeanor if they hit pedestrians or cyclists who have the right of way, as long as there’s proof the drivers didn’t yield or exercise due care.
Last month’s incidents occurred during the day and when the weather was clear. In three, buses made left turns while the pedestrians were crossing at the crosswalk. There’s no explanation for what happened and why.
That’s partly because no one knows what the drivers were doing or whether they were distracted. So, the first necessary change is simple: Train a camera on every bus driver. Union officials may object, but, assuming their members are doing their jobs, there’s no reason not to let cameras record the drivers’ actions.
The MTA also must find better ways to track and stop drivers’ potential cellphone use. It’s too easy for drivers to keep their phones on or use them while driving. While it’s unknown whether drivers in recent accidents were using cellphones, 50 drivers over the last five years lost their jobs after two cellphone-use infractions each. And that just represents those who were caught.
Last month’s accidents also spotlight the need for technological solutions, from sensors to alert a driver to someone near the bus to audible ways to notify pedestrians that a bus is turning. Officials also should better track near-misses, ramp up random inspection rides and consider potential changes to bus stops and the buses themselves.
Four people were killed in one month in tragedies that likely were preventable. Now officials must work to create a safer city, for drivers and passengers alike.