According to a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT), almost all bus crashes can be attributed to one of four types of bad habits:
The DoT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “concluded that human errors by bus drivers, other vehicle drivers, and pedestrians or bicyclists were the critical reasons for bus crashes in 90 percent of the cases examined. The majority of those causal and contributing factors examined were related to driver error, fatigue, or other human factors.”
Bus Training Simulators Focus on Human Error
The DoT further found that “In the 19 crashes where the bus was assigned the critical reason for the crash, the specific reason was driver error in 15 cases. … The two cases where the buses caught fire, the one case where bus brakes failed, and the one case of ice on the roadway resulting in a crash were the only cases where critical reasons were not assigned to drivers.”
Even more notable, although driver errors occasionally violated the law (such as illegal turns or following too closely), “many of the bus driver human errors, including inattention, distraction, haste, and misjudgments, are not violations of laws or regulations. … While better enforcement [and equipment maintenance] can improve the safety climate, producing safer drivers cannot be ensured solely by police enforcement actions.”
Zerry Hogan is an expert in transit and transportation training and simulation. He previously served as the training project manager for the LYNX Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority. In his experience, bus training simulators are especially well-suited to address the sorts of poor habits that can lead to fatal accidents.
“These are issues we can correct during simulation,” Hogan explains. “Because, remember, the simulation is to allow you to fully observe their habits—without also having to divide your attention, to be sure they’re safe on the road. Hogan has previously noted that LYNX saw “a decrease of 69.23% in accidents for those operators trained on the simulator.”
Bus Training Simulators Prepare Operators for the Unexpected
Let’s add some context: the DoT’s bus-crash study looked at a total of 39 crashes. The driver was only at fault in 15 of these. In the others, the bus operator and his or her passengers were largely the victims of circumstance. But you can prepare drivers to make the best out of a bad situation.
Nigel Lindsey-King is the former Superintendent of Surface Transportation Training and Curriculum Development Specialist for the Toronto Transit Commission. He has decades of experience, from operating a streetcar through designing and administering entire training programs. “With the inclusion of the bus training simulator, it means we can allow them [operators] to get into situations that we could never let them do out on the street. As an instructor, there’s no way I could let you get into a dangerous situation. Whereas, on a simulator, I could let you do that, see the consequences of your actions, then play it back and let you see what you could do differently. That, in my mind, has made a tremendous impact” on bus safety.