Sunday, September 14, 2014

"From the Driver's side"

We all tend to consider ourselves "good" drivers, whether we're operating a bus or tooling around in our own wheels. Ask 10 people to rate their driving skills and chances are all will give themselves high marks. Ask a bus operator to rate the average driver, and the score drops. Drastically.

We are trained to predict driver behavior, and we can be assessed a "Preventable Accident" if we don't avoid a collision. Even if we're not "at fault", the district holds its drivers to lofty standards and will assess a PA if we didn't do everything possible to prevent a collision.

We're trained to scan everything around us. With such a wide, elevated view of the road, we see things the average Jane cannot. It becomes second nature to see impending trouble, so we take instant action to avoid becoming part of the problem. Often, since we're such huge targets, there's nothing we can do to avoid another vehicle slamming into us. Yet we try very hard to protect you, the motoring public, from your own mistakes. Do we get credit? Rarely, if ever. Unless you consider the one-fingered gesture a salute to our professionalism. Today, peole are loathe to take personal responsibility for their mistakes. Arrogance encourages fools to lay the blame at the feet of the blameless. It's another end-product of a "feel good society". All too often, it's the professional who pays the price.

If someone falls on our bus, it could be a PA if we're found to have braked too hard or  turned suddenly. Imagine this scenario: a passenger has experienced such a smooth ride they feel comfortable enough to stand prior to the bus arriving at their stop. Suddenly, a car turns directly into the path of the bus. To avoid crushing Billy Badass's Beemer full of high school students, the bus operator brakes. Fast and hard. Paulie Passenger had a coupla beers before riding the bus, misses the stanchion he grabs for and is suddenly thrust forward several feet. He lands on the floor, his head bleeding from slamming into a seat.

Billy is long-gone down the road, having "saluted" the honking operator, his passengers happily oblivious their precious young lives have been spared. For the Paulie and the operator, it's a nightmare. Paramedics arrive and determine Paulie should be transported to hospital. Field Supervisor arrives and takes info from Ollie Operator, who says yes, he saw Billy approaching the stop sign and then glanced at his mirrors and scanned his entire field of vision preparing to pull to the bus stop. Billy, who ran the stop sign, shot out in front of the bus, and with another car to his left, the only recourse Ollie had was to brake.

Sounds pretty cut and dry. Right? All it takes is one extra "nay" vote from a member of the accident review board to lay the blame on Ollie. Perhaps he was "driving too fast for conditions", even though he was under the speed limit. Maybe he braked "too hard". There are many reasons Ollie could be assessed a PA, even though he made a split-second decision that saved lives.

One driver, while in Line Training, had a passenger fall on his bus as he travelled in a straight line, 10mph under the speed limit. Although the stars were aligned for his not getting a PA, he was still sweating it out. While on probation, we're not protected by the appeals process. In fact, if a probie gets three PA's, he's fired.

The other day as I sat at a traffic light, I counted 11 of  15 people looking at their cell phones as they rolled past. This included a cop.

Next time you're slidin' down the parkway, think twice about allowing yourself to become distracted. Three times, even. One of the most common responses from someone involved in a collision is "I didn't even see him!". It's likely because they weren't watching for him.

Eyes on the road, folks. You're driving like fools out there, but you're responsible for your own driving decisions. Killing another is something you can't afford. Remember, lives are priceless.

Sound too preachy? Too bad. I'd rather you be angry with me and remember, than to face the family of a future victim.

Peace be with you.
"Good" Drivers? | From the Driver Side

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