However, we should consider the fact that Metrobus drivers spend all day, everyday driving a bus, and it's likely accidents will occur over a period of years. With this in mind, is two accidents in a seven year period too many? Metro General Manager John Catoe says no. He tells WTOP it's not a great record, but "it isn't what [he] would consider a bad record."
Metro classifies accidents in several ways, including "minor" and "major" and whether or not they are preventable. This makes sense, again, because bus drivers are likely to be involved in a crash at some point. It appears that these categories could use some rethinking. While it's understandable that if a bus gets, for example, rear-ended in rush hour traffic, that is not a sign that the bus driver is careless or unsafe. If a bus operator allows her bus to roll backwards down a hill, however, that seems more indicative of carelessness and unsafe practices. The same could be said for crashing into parked cars. While these may have been "minor" (though the second incident resulted in injury and a lawsuit) and "preventable" they seem to paint a more "unsafe" picture than rush hour fenderbenders.
So how many is too many, and can past accidents predict future one? After some brief research, I came across a fairly interesting document from the U.S. Department of Transportation. This report was focused on school bus crashes, but compares school bus accidents to other types, including mass transit buses. Looking at fatal transit bus accidents, from 1999-2005, 46.3% of bus drivers had been in an accident or had a citation in the 3-years prior to the crash (29.9% had been in accidents). In the case of Proctor, she had been on-the-job accident free for five years. Those USDOT figures don't tell us a whole lot, though. Transit accident numbers are difficult to nail down.
At this point it is unclear if Metro knew that Proctor had been cited for driving without insurance or registration--surely an indicator of poor judgement. It's also unclear what impact this would have had on her employment. I'd like to immediately say that Metro is responsible and kept an unsafe driver on payroll, but this is a bit tricky. It seems as though the two accidents in 2003 and 2004 should have been a red flag. Catoe has said he wants Metro to work on a system of cooperation with local motor vehicle departments to monitor bus operator's driving records. We'll see if that ever happens. Metro is also "examining the driving records of all bus operators."
It sounds like Metro's policy recognizes that bus accidents will happen, but could use some more work on classifying and taking accident circumstances into consideration. The realm of "minor" appears to be huge.