Placing Blame Where Blame is Due

Last week, the Los Angeles MTA opened its newest transit line, the 14-mile Metro Orange Line. The Orange Line runs mostly along the former PE right of way and on former rail right of ways. It has an exclusive right of way, but does cross streets at grade. They have done numerous street improvements to attempt to ensure safety on the line, including a a signal priority system that enables buses to communicate with LADOT-installed traffic signals, special signals for cross traffix, special “Keep Clear” zones intended to keep motorists from blocking the intersection, and special “Do Not Enter” signs and other directional signs on both sides of busway entrances, complemented with flashing electronic “Bus Coming” signs when buses approach the intersection.

But all it takes is one idiot on a cell phone.

Yesterday, fifteen people were injured when a 78-year-old woman believed to be talking on a cell phone ran a red light and collided with a Orange Line bus. The accident occured when the woman ran a red light at Woodman Avenue. Her Toyota Camry hit the bus and then spun around and hit it again before stopping. About three hours earlier, a motorist made an illegal right turn on a red light from Topham Avenue onto Corbin Avenue and collided with an Orange Line bus. Yesterday’s crashes brought the number to three for the busway, following a collision with a vehicle that made an illegal right-on-red turn last week during test runs. During the test period, drivers of the 30-ton buses had been reporting close calls during practice trips and had been ordered to take their foot off the accelerator as they pass through intersections so they could hit the brakes more quickly.

The net effect of this is a bunch of immediate calls for beefed-up safety measures. MTA officials ordered Orange Line drivers to slow to 10 mph at all intersections and said they would consider other options such as crossing gates. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the MTA board member who has championed the line, said every possible safety measure will be considered.


What happened to personal responsibility? All of these accidents have occured by people ignoring traffic laws: running lights, driving while distracted, illegal right turns. Yet the answer is not increased enforcement to catch folks with bad driving habits and get them off the road, but to spend loads of tax dollars to slow the line down and install more technical measures.

This is wrong. The answer is simple: More traffic cops. Install cameras on those intersections to catch the licenses of the scofflaws and send them a ticket… in addition to having a safety officer come to their house. MTA should work with insurance companies to increase the insurance rates of such drivers.

In the most recent and egregious example, we have a 78 year old woman talking on a cell phone while running a red light… and yet the bus line is blamed for the accident. Wrong. This is a woman who should lose her license; it reminds me of the old man who crashed into the Santa Monica Farmers Market, or the recent 93 year old man who drove through a tollbooth with a body in the window.

Let’s get the bad drivers off the road. That’s the best answer to road safety.