Metrobuses crashing more often

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Local,Liz Essley,Metro,Metro and Traffic

Metrobuses are crashing more often even as Metro makes strides toward better safety in other areas.

Nearly 53 Metrobuses crashed for every million miles the transit agency's buses traveled in 2012, Metro safety chief Jim Dougherty said at a board of directors meeting Thursday.

That's up from 2011's rate of about 50 collisions per million miles and 2010's rate of about 49 collisions per million miles.

Collision totals for the year were not included in Dougherty's report and were not immediately available Thursday, but Metro averages about six bus crashes per day.

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles didn't directly respond to questions about why buses were crashing more often, but said Metro is focusing on problem areas -- called "hotspots" -- to reduce collisions.

"If we identify through the accident data that a particular intersection or a particular part of a roadway sees more accidents, then we work with our own drivers as well as the local jurisdiction to find a way to improve the way we operate through that area," he said. "It may involve changing a turn or something like that."

The rate of preventable bus crashes is also increasing -- from about 17 per million miles in 2010 to 25 per million miles in 2012.

Metro officials said that's because they have better information about collisions. Metro now installs cameras to track its drivers; those cameras can record incidents and tell officials which could have been avoided. "Since we've introduced DriveCam, we've seen a shift to preventable accidents." Sarles said. "Still, by using DriveCam, we are working with the drivers and retraining those that seem to have an issue."

The higher bus crash rates come as Metro is improving in other safety measures. In 2012, 1.68 riders in the system were injured for every million trips taken -- a rate 10 percent lower than in 2011. Metro's employee injury rate also dropped by 3 percent to 5.19 injuries per 200,000 hours worked. Metro met its goals in both areas.

Bus drivers and passengers were among the employees and riders most likely to be injured, Metro said, though it did not have statistics on how many were injured in 2012.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner