Ellen Goldberg, NBC 5 Investigates
Dallas Area Rapid Transit buses were in 1,832 collisions in an 18-month period, according to an NBC 5 investigation. Serious crashes involving DART buses are few and far between, but fender benders, sideswipes and mirror clips are common. A DART bus clipped the mirror on Elaine Jamerson's vehicle, but Tim Newby the assistant vice president for bus operations says DART has one of the best driver-safety records in the state. Ellen Goldberg reports. This story was published March 21, 2011 - 11:19 p.m.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit buses were involved in nearly 2,000 collisions in an 18-month period, according to an investigation.
Serious crashes involving DART buses are few and far between, but fender benders, sideswipes and mirror clips are common.
Buses were in 1,832 crashes between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 8, 2010, which averages out to more than three incidents per day, NBC 5 found in a seven-month investigation.
In a given year, DART's 1,200 bus drivers cover more than 30 million miles.
DART executives say the agency has one of the best driver-safety records in the state.
"Overall, we have a nationally recognized program with regards to safety and training, and our performance levels are at or above our peers out there in the industry," said Tim Newby, assistant vice president for bus operations.
DART has received national recognition for its six-week, hands-on driver training program.
DART declared 15 percent of the nearly 2,000 crashes preventable, meaning the bus driver did not do everything possible to avoid the collision.
"In many cases, the other operator -- the motorist -- was cited for the accident, but still -- because we felt like we needed to hold that operator accountable to a higher level -- we deemed it preventable," Newby said.
He said drivers who are involved in wrecks -- especially preventable ones -- are disciplined.
"Whenever we have a situation of a preventable accident, they're brought back in for retraining again, because we want to be sure that they've addressed that particular issue," he said.
Twenty-five drivers have two or three preventable crashes on their record but Newby said he is not concerned.
"Again, that preventability standard means, 'Hey, they missed something -- and it might have been small thing -- relative to defensive driving," he said.
In the past few years, DART has added more hands-on training to its driver training program.
"We're always trying to improve, so that there's no doubt they can always be a little bit better," Newby said.
Drivers must complete a six-week program, four weeks of which are spent out on the road practicing defensive driving with an instructor.
Elaine Jamerson, of Irving, said the crash numbers do not surprise her.
She saw a DART bus clip the mirror of her Ford Expedition in front of her house. Buses are not supposed to be on her residential street, but the bus was cutting through to avoid road construction.
"No. 1, this street is too narrow for a bus, and No. 2, they were driving too fast to be driving a bus," she said.
Jamerson said she is thankful that her rear-view mirror was the only casualty.
"It could have been one of the kids, because there are a lot of kids on our street, and some of them could very easily have been hurt."