In my relatively short time as a bus driver, it will be 5 years this November, I have come across many people who put their lives at risk around my bus. Anybody who follows me on Twitter or knows me on Facebook knows that these people… Well… They annoy me. Today, I’m adding a new category on the blog, called “Darwin Candidates”, where I can file posts detailing some of these these interactions. Note the use of the word “Candidates” instead of “Awards” – I have yet to see anybody seriously injured while I’ve been driving and I really hope to maintain this perfect record.
Darwin Candidate #1 – How to stop a bus with your body
The Sound Transit Route 545 from Seattle to Redmond has a stop on Eastbound State Route 520 at 92nd Ave NE, also known as Yarrow Point. It is difficult to see this stop until you are almost unable to stop for it, especially if you avoid traveling into the “gore point“. I’ve learned to slow as I approach and look at the bus zone just as it comes into view to determine whether to exit or not. You can see the zone in question on here on Google Streetview on the right side of the picture.
One morning I’m heading out to Microsoft with about 70 folks on board. As I approach Yarrow Point something distracts me so I miss my usual first glance. After I refocus my attention I realize there are several people waiting for my bus so I pull off the freeway. I’m a little late so I apply the brakes a bit more vigorously than usual and likely cut across the edge of the “gore point”. At some point in this story, I honestly don’t recall exactly when, my first, and possibly most spectacular, Darwin Candidate realizes that HIS bus might not see him and that standing IN THE MIDDLE OF THE EXIT would make him more visible and/or get me to stop. To be clear, I saw him just fine when he was safely on the sidewalk but he was correct; he was indeed more visible directly in front of my bus while I was travelling towards him at 30-40mph. At this point Herr rocket scientist has cut about 30-40 feet off of my intended stopping distance so I have to apply the brakes even harder. I recall hearing the sounds of rings slapping on the hand bars and even a few gasps, a sure sign that my passengers were thrown off balance and also frightened. It wasn’t the hardest stop I’ve performed in a bus but it was damn scary. I made it – about 10 feet short of somebody who can’t possibly work for Microsoft, could he? At this point, I pop the emergency brake, look at the floor, take a breath, and do my best to regain my composure. Thankfully, the individual involved had a bike that he was loading so I had time organize my thoughts. When he finally boarded, I said, in a calm but “as firm as you can be without actually yelling” voice I said, “PLEASE! Don’t EVER do that again!” If your bus driver ever says those words to you, he or she likely just prevented an early appointment for you with the grim reaper. You would be wise to heed the advice.
Be safe out there!