CITYWIDE – Big Blue Bus accidents are down in Santa Monica this fiscal year, according to Edwards King, director of Transit Services for City Hall.

In the 2011-12 fiscal year, BBB recorded an average of 12.7 accidents, and nearly two preventable accidents, for every 100,000 miles driven.

From July 1 of last year through the end of March, that rate is down to 9.31 accidents per 100,000 miles, a 20 percent decline in total accidents.

Preventable accidents are down since fiscal year 2011-12 but up slightly from last fiscal year. The preventable accident rate was 1.51 per 100,000 in 2012-13 and 1.6 so far this fiscal year.

“These numbers are more consistent with the industry norm,” King said.

According to a 2013 report from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Metro buses averaged 3.62 accidents per 100,000 miles in 2012. There was no available rate for preventable accidents. Metro’s highest rates were on the Westside, averaging 4.31 crashes per 100,000 miles – the increase resulting partially from the area’s traffic congestion.

There were 666 BBB accidents last fiscal year, 80 of which were deemed preventable.

BBB spokesperson Suja Lowenthal said that the rate is higher than they’d like but only because they have an impossible goal: zero crashes.

“There are so many factors that can contribute to an accident,” she said “We’re really proud of our (drivers) and the decrease in the number of accidents really shows were headed in the right direction.”

Before the start of the 2011 fiscal year, the data that BBB kept “did not accurately reflect the overall safety record,” King said in a report, “and additionally, reporting inconsistencies required the re-creation of many reports.”

BBB was also lacking a specific safety program that is required by the Federal Transit Administration.

“As such, industry best practices were not codified in a safety plan or training program to be deployed or followed by the department,” King said. “Although basic required training was provided to (drivers) and new students, there was minimal, if any, accident re-training, coaching and counseling of (drivers) post-accident and accidents were not thoroughly investigated.”

Over the last two years, BBB has been reviewing accident data to determine if any patterns emerge – be it the route, time of day, or driver’s behavior.

In November, BBB hired a new safety training manager, Ray Lopez, with more than 20 years of experience. BBB now has quarterly maintenance safety meetings and annual driver training programs. BBB officials developed a new process for hiring drivers.

BBB officials say the drop in the overall accident rate is a result of these changes. They also claim there’s been a reduction the number of claims and injury payouts by BBB.

In November, BBB officials told the Daily Press there’d been 12 BBB accident-related lawsuits filed against City Hall in the past year. There had also been six lawsuits from riders falling on the bus, unrelated to accidents.

Since November, City Hall has paid out more than $1 million in settlements related to bus accidents. In one case, settled in March, a bus accident left two people seriously injured. City Hall paid $800,000 to settle that case.

In another case, City Hall paid $150,000 to a cyclist who was struck by a bus.

The family of Patrick O’Dell, who was riding on Sunset Boulevard in 2012 when he was struck and killed by a Route 9 bus, filed a lawsuit against City Hall last year.

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