A CBC News investigation has found 160 Metro Transit bus drivers had multiple accidents in a year that saw the Halifax transit system deal with a total of 640 accidents.
In the period between Oct. 15, 2012 and Oct. 15, 2013, three Metro Transit drivers were involved in seven incidents each, while eight other operators were involved in five accidents each. The information is part of a database obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
The data provide a snapshot of life on streets for Metro Transit drivers, but the safety and training manager at Metro Transit said the numbers don't give the entire picture.
"Saying seven collisions seems bad," said Kevin Alexander. "But, it may be two are their fault or two are preventable on their part and five were non-preventable."
Metro Transit investigates each accident and determines if it could have been avoided. Alexander said more than half the cases — about 57 per cent — were deemed preventable.
The data showed ten drivers struck pedestrians and three of those accidents happened in marked crosswalks. Police charged those drivers under the Motor Vehicle Act with failing to yield to a pedestrian and issued summary offence tickets.
Of the 640 total incidents during the year, more than 350 collisions involved vehicles.
Barrington Street in downtown Halifax was the most accident-riddled street with nearly 80 incidents.
"Barrington is pretty narrow and with the delivery vehicles and so on," said Alexander. "It's also probably where most of our buses go so the ratio of buses in that area is higher than on most streets in the city."
Seven weeks of training
The next most common location for accidents is the transit garage at the Ragged Lake Industrial Park off Prospect Road, where more than 150 buses come and go in a day. More than 40 accidents happened there in the year between October 2012 and October 2013.
"The union has always said that the garage is built improperly," said Ken Wilson, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 508.
"The lanes are small, there’s overhead obstructions that we weren’t told about. The employer has done a few things to try and minimize those accidents but they can’t change the size of the building and the size of the lanes so it was poorly designed, poorly built.”
Wilson said the union has been pushing for a regular professional driver improvement course for all operators.
"You know yourself, people tend to pick up bad habits the longer they drive. A little refresher course here or there tends to snap those bad habits or remind them what's important," he said.
Alexander said drivers gets seven weeks of training when they're hired. They're also monitored and provided extra training if management deems that necessary.
He said Metro Transit is planning to introduce a new program for veteran drivers that will include defensive driving and customer service training.