Broward County Transit is coming under fire for its continued employment of a bus driver who in two decades of service has racked up:
Troubles with his employment started little more than a week after he was hired, and have continued through this year. In 2013, he caused a four-vehicle pileup on Interstate 95 that resulted in serious injuries to one of the women involved. Broward county commissioners recently signed off on a $75,000 settlement to resolve her personal injury claims against the county for negligent hiring, supervision and vicarious liability.
The driver, 62, is still on the job and isn’t set to retire for another five years.
This is in sharp contrast to the many drivers who operate for years – and sometimes their entire careers – without a single crash on their record. County commissioners have for the last three years been discussing implementation of tighter disciplinary measures for county bus drivers, but vows to change the system have not yet materialized into policy changes. Part of the issue is that the bus drivers’ union has failed to reach an agreement with county transit officials on the matter.
As it now stands, a driver must be deemed responsible for five preventable crashes in a two-year period in order to warrant termination from the job.
The transit systems operates some 345 fixed route buses (another 30 will be added to the fleet this year), as well as 81 community buses and 192 paratransit vehicles to nearly 4,600 stops. The system averages more than 121,000 riders every single day, and carries out more than 37 million trips annually.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports the number of fatal bus accidents nationally appears to have decreased slightly in recent years, with 280 reported in 2013. On average, intercity buses accounted for 13 percent of those fatal crashes. School buses accounted for 41 percent and transit buses 33 percent.
This particular driver has one of if not the worst driving records on file in Broward. Of 823 bus operator files scrutinized by the Sun-Sentinel, he was in thetop15 for number of crashes in a five-year stretch ending in 2013. During that time, he racked up 14 crashes, with 10 of those deemed preventable. A union representative insisted he was a good driver, and accidents often happen “inexplicably” with some drivers more than others.
Among the incidents documented by the newspaper:
- His bus rear-ended a truck carrying metal pipes that was stopped at a red light. One of the pipes crashed through the front windshield of the bus. The driver told investigators “the sun was in my eyes.”
- Less than a week after that 2004 incident, while stopped at a red light, his “eyes felt tired” and he rolled into another vehicle stopped ahead of him.
- In 2012, he struck a vehicle in front of him while accelerating when a light turned green at an intersection. Four passengers on that bus had to be transported to a local hospital.
- He crashed on I-95 in 2013 after failing to slow down for the traffic ahead. One of the other drivers involved was seriously injured.
- Last year, he drove his bus through a railroad track arm because, he later stated, his view was obstructed. The arm broke as it slammed down onto the bus.
Early on in his career, he left the scene of a crash after striking a street sign. However, he was able to keep his job and was actually promoted soon after.
Commissioners say they want to change the way drivers are disciplined, and obtain authority to punish a driver based on the severity of a crash for which they are at fault.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
16 accidents, 30 days of suspension, no problem, Nov. 20, 2015, By Brittany Wallman, Sun-Sentinel
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