Drivers on city buses must sign an agreement that they will not text or talk on the cellphone or listen to cell music while in the drivers seat. Failure to comply with this regulation is grounds for immediate termination.
Transit and Paratransit drivers also learn from the getgo to honor the Triple LC principle (LLLC). Safety behind the wheel requires a driver to LOOK AHEAD, looking at least 15 second ahead of the vehicle for immediate developments in the encroaching roadway. A driver must LOOK AROUND, being aware of all that is in front, on both sides and is likely approaching from the rear of the vehicle for emergencies waiting to happen. A driver must ideally change his or her view by looking in a different mirror every 3-5 seconds, moving forward and backward in the drivers seat to remove obstructive views at intersections then looking left, right, and left again before proceeding. Finally, a driver must COMMUNICATE by using the horn, blinkers and signals to impart their intentions other drivers and pedestrians. Drivers are trained, retrained, reminded, and reported to keep these safety conserns fresh in mind.
It is amazing, though, as one with almost seven years attempting to replicate the safety principles expected by quality transit companies, how I have become increasingly aware of all that goes on around me. Awareness opens our eyes.
To attain a glimpse of what the transit experience is like, try the following experiment. Leave your cell phone at home, turn off your MP3 and car radio. Cancel all other distractions. Then drive the same fixed route nine times on a single day and record all that happens along the way. You will, I guarantee, have an eye opening experience. You will be amazed at the occurances of which you have not previously been aware. REMEMBER, you must cut out all distractions and stay as alert as possible during the entire experiment. If you want to simulate a fixed route drivers experience even closer, you can also lay out a twenty-five minute course across town (one way) and at the other end turn around and drive back to where you started. Repeat this round trip nine times, you got it, going over the identical course 18 times in the same morning or afternoon uninterrupted. Additionally you must drive it as though you were expected to make it within the time allotted, driving the speed limit safely or disappoint your imaginary passengers on either end. If you would like to carry the simulation further, you can choose 6 stops (eventhough a real route for GVT will have 20) each way. At each Stop wait 10 seconds and take off again. You must do it safely and quickly as possible.
Being more alert behind the wheel, I have experienced many helpful and supportive passengers but I have also noticed behaviors that concern me. Many of these are related to new technology. Cell phones, tablets, Ipods, Mp3s, even laptops, are in many ways our friends when it comes to connecting with others that are not present, but they can also be serious distractions and can even threaten our welfare and that of others.
You may have noticed that EDs (electronic devices) don’t remain in our scabbard, purse or pocket until we are ready to use them. They actually seem to intrude into our lives. They ring at awkward moments distracting all within earshot. There are signs in public places that ask that cell phones be turned down or off. My church has a slide on the screen that reminds worshippers to quell their devices before the Sunday service. EDs seem to demand immediate attention, and offer the opportunity for immediate contact. I have passengers that board with a device inserted in their ears, never hear instructions, never make contact with other passengers. They are seemingly in their own little world, water walking inside a plastic bubble. I have seen parents order their children on board while fixed on a cell conversation while oblivious to the welfare and behavior of their crew. I have seen passengers deboard only to immediately pick up their ED and walk directly in front of the bus on departure. Debording passengers are always to walk behind a bus so that they can be visible to oncoming traffic.
Passengers have deboarded, deracked their bikes only to pickup their EDs and ride away engaged in a saddle conversation. EDs, used while in transit, are definitely liabilities, they are not our friends in that particular setting. Now I will admit that there are times when EDs are helpful if used appropriately while seated. Passengers, make appointments, check on arrangements, field emergencies and do research all on their EDs. They carry on important conversations with family, friends and work associates. Youth connect with other youth diverging from another direction at a single point. All use phones to check on bus schedules and times. Of course our focus here is personal safety, and we are lifting up practices and behavior that aide in getting to your destination safely.
Waiting behind another car at a traffic light, I notice that it does not move when the light changes. I tap my horn gently, only to discover the familiar hand motion in the driver seat informing me that the driver was texting at the intersection. (How many different ways can texting at the intersection put you and others at risk?) Not being optimally allert at the intersection (remember the LLLC) can place you at risk when you touch the accelerator to start again, or when something goes wrong. I have seen tragedies unfold right in front of me that I avoided only by being allert. Be allert. Use EDs at a time and in a manner that does not put yourself or someone else at risk. Texting while … driving, parenting, walking, boarding a bus, biking, skate boarding, running or engaging in activities that require you to be allert is truly not a risk worth taking.
Shortly after I began driving for GVT, one night, I had a mini emotional breakdown. I came home and jumped on my bed and wepted. I was overcome with the reponsibility of carrying passengers and driving half million dollar carrages on public streets. It was and is a weighty responsibility that each driver willingly assume when they sighn a contract, even though, like me, the full weight may not dawn until sometime later. The company has training and supervisoral support to help you sholder the load. An umbrella of insurance covers you as long as you are not at fault. To protect yourself you must Look Ahead, Look Around, Leave Room and Communicate. This is the best path to success as a transit driver and passenger, O yes, and leave the cell phone turned off in our pocket.