A new website initiative has just been launched by Transportation Alternatives President Ned Einstein: safetycompromises.com.
Based on Mr. Einstein’s 40+ years in the field, and more than 20 years experience as an expert witness on more than 600 public transportation cases involving mostly non-rail modes or services, he has come to the conclusion that more than half of all injury-related injury-accidents are the direct result of deliberate trade-offs of passenger, pedestrian and motorist safety for other benefits that accrue to the providers of public transportation. Depending on the mode of transportation, the benefits include:
- Keeping the vehicle on schedule (often in order to escape the assessment of penalties or “liquidated damages” in many transportation contracts)
- Devising schedules that are so tight that drivers must regularly compromise passenger safety in order to comply with these schedules
- Increasing the profits (or avoiding the losses) from the foolhardy reimbursement rate structures under which many modes or services operate
The nine basic safety compromises explored in safetycompromises.com include:
- on-board slips and falls
- wheelchair and passenger securement
- failure to kneel the bus
- not pulling adjacent to the curb
- stopping on the wrong side of the intersection
- boarding and alighting accidents
- rolling turns and sharp turns
- violating passenger assistance standards and practices, and disincentives to providing them
As noted, many of these compromises are common to, if not epidemic among, certain specific modes, while far less common on others. The exception is tight schedules, which are the cause of most safety compromises in most public transportation modes.
Finally, some compromises of passenger safety not explored in this initiative — like the absence of any fatigue-management efforts — result in fewer incidents, but usually far more severe ones. For example, a motorcoach driver who chooses a schedule (based on union seniority) that is incompatible with his or her sleep/wakefulness cycle falls asleep at the wheel , and kills and maims a coach full of passengers — when more prudent driver assignment, or screening and treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea, could have avoided this result.