NEWS

Halifax Transit could have prevented hundreds of crashes last year

06/05/2015 05:00 EDT | Updated 06/04/2016 05:59 EDT
Halifax Transit drivers could have prevented hundreds of collisions last year, according to numbers obtained by CBC News.

In 2014 Halifax Transit was in 712 recorded accidents, almost two a day. Of those, the city deemed 347 preventable. Another 243 were considered non-preventable, like when an animal darts into traffic.

The city is still investigating 122 collisions from last year.

The city says a preventable accident is when an operator didn't do everything in their power to stop the collision. They include hitting a parked car, backing into other buses and turning too widely and hitting a pole.

According to the numbers accessed through the Freedom of Information Act, buses are most often hitting other vehicles (400 times) and other buses (87 times.) In 2014, four pedestrians were hit by a bus. The city says three of those were preventable.

The most frequent spot for accidents was Barrington Street, with 80 recorded collisions. Robie Street follows with 47 accidents and then Gottingen Street with 39.

Spokeswoman Tiffany Chase says in comparison to the one million trips every year, the number of accidents is small. Still, she says they're trying to whittle down the number of preventable accidents.

Challenging roads

"These vehicles are large, 40- to 60-foot buses that our operators are navigating in and out of traffic and mingling with other vehicles, with cyclists and pedestrians. Certainly it can be a challenge but we try to provide as much training and support to those operators as possible to help prevent as many collisions," she said.

She says the city tracks accident trends and adjusts their driver training.

"The only way to prevent an accident is to stay home from work because no one foresees an accident," said Ken Wilson, head of the Amalgamated Transit Union, local 508.

Wilson questions the city's definition of a preventable accident

He says some accidents, like sliding into a snowbank, shouldn't be considered the driver's fault, especially when they've been pushing for winter tires on buses.

"We had a very bad winter that year. We still allow on-street parking so the roads become that much more narrower," Wilson said. "A transit operator in Halifax has to watch five mirrors every three to five seconds, plus traffic, plus the passengers on the bus, plus the people on the sidewalk. It's a very difficult city to drive in."

Accident committee dropped

Wilson wants the city to re-establish the accident review committee, where representatives from the city, union and an independent person sifted through the accidents. It was scrapped during negotiations during the 2012 strike. Now it's up to city investigators to determine what could have been prevented or not.

"A lot of guys get really frustrated because some of the accidents are so minor that there's no cost associated to it but they're still getting a preventable accident. They slid into a snowbank, or they drove down Oxford Street and hit a tree branch. We can't see above us when we drive, we don't know there's a tree branch there but they're saying it's our fault," he said.

If a driver racks up too many preventable accidents they're reprimanded.

"It could be very easy in a winter like we just had or 2014 to have three accidents," Wilson said.

Chase says the city's investigators are already working off a policy agreed to by the union.

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