A fatal collision that took place between a double-decker city bus and a train in Ottawa last year has led both citizens and officials alike to call for transit policy reform. The crash, which took place on Sept. 18,, 2013, caused six people—including the driver of the bus, a man by the name of Dave Woodward—to lose their lives, and left dozens more of the 83 other passengers on board the bus with injuries.

The bus, which was determined to be at fault in the collision, was owned and operated by OC Transpo, a transit company that serves commuters in Canada’s capital city. The train involved in the incident was run by VIA Rail, a cross-country rail service operated by the Canadian government. Investigators have determined that the driver of the bus was likely distracted in the moments leading up to the crash, having his attention focused on a video screen which monitored distant areas of the two-deck bus. It is thought that the driver may have had his attention focused on a passenger on the upper deck of the bus standing up while the bus was in motion, and that this may have posed a sufficient distraction to the driver to cause him to fail to see the flashing lights and signs warning of the train crossing ahead.

The bus was also driving over the speed limit—approximately 68 kph in a 60 kph zone—and this may have played a role in the driver’s inability to bring the bus to a complete stop in time to avoid colliding with the train. The investigation into the factors that played a role in this crash continue, but transit and city officials are considering which measures could be taken to prevent a similar accident from occurring in the future.

One suggestion from crash investigators was to make video monitoring on the buses selective in their functionality, such that video screens would automatically turn off while the bus was in motion so as to reduce the likelihood of their posing a distraction to bus drivers. The city has already reduced the speed limit near the train crossing by 10 kph in the hope that managing vehicle speed will help reduce the number of collisions between motor vehicles and trains. The city has also created what it calls “speed enforcement teams,” which have been deployed to random locations along the various transit routes in order to keep speeding buses in check.


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