Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The bus crash: Charges? Against whom?

One more comment with regard to the bus crash.  The Boston Globe reports today:

No charges had been filed or citations issued Monday against the driver of the bus, Samuel J. Jackson, as State Police continued their investigation. They are scrutinizing witness statements and physical evidence, examining the bus driver’s route just before the crash as well as posted road signs along the route and preliminary results of a collision reconstruction. Final results could take two to six weeks.

If charges are filed, I'd sure like to be Mr. Jackson's lawyer.  First, bring in Bill Geary as a witness and have him explain what he did to make the roads safer in the late 1980s:

“What just occurred this weekend was something I lived in fear of for six-plus years,” said Bill Geary, who from 1983 to 1989 served as commissioner of the former Metropolitan District Commission, the agency that used to be responsible for maintaining Soldiers Field Road. The approach “was kind of primitive, but it worked. It reduced these episodes dramatically.”

Then bring in state officials and have them admit in court to a recent up-tick in crashes along these roadways--and how an "awareness campaign" was planned for later this year.  Then, have them prepare work orders showing how often DCR people have been asked to survey the condition of the road signs.  "Over the years, some signs faded, got lost, or became tangled on the stanchions that support them."  Have DCR produce invoices as to how it often it purchased replacement rubber signs indicating the oncoming height of the underpasses.

Whatever you might think of Mr. Jackson's fault with regard to this accident, a judge or jury reviewing the full record is likely to find that fault equally shared by the agency that is the custodian of these roadways.  I'm sure poor Mr. Jackson feels terrible about being involved in hurting those children, and there is no purpose served in punishing him further.  If I were the State Police, I'd let him go home and live with his own terrible memories of the event. 


Anonymous said...

Totally agree with your sentiments. When first saw the headline thought "well, how would anyone from out of state know just what those inadequate, vague signs mean?" Poor lost driver. But, I think, indicative of prevalent attitude about so much..if you don't know, you are not from here, and we don't want you around anyway.

Unknown said...

There are not "inadequate, vague signs". They are clearly marked in several locations leading up to the low-clearance bridges. In fact there are big, swinging LOW-CLEARANCE signs, "Cars only" signs, "Trucks exit here" signs all along the stretches of Storrow and Soldiers Field in question. This also wasn't just a "poor lost driver", this was a professional bus driver whose company should have properly instructed him on area roads that are forbidden to busses.

Maybe GPS software manufacturers should include a "bus/truck" setting that omits directions utilizing car-only roads.

The biggest thing for the state to do with the parkways is get them out of DCR's jurisdiction and into DOT. The state parks department shouldn't be in the business of managing and maintaining thoroughfares through the city. If you want Storrow and SFR to be true parkways, then downgrade them to boulevards instead of the 60mph freeways that they're currently being used as.

Short of eliminating them as main thoroughfares altogether and shunting traffic to the Turnpike after the Beacon Yards is shuttered, your other option is a billions dollar project to tunnel the roads through waterlogged landfill.

Dani B. said...

Let's say the rubber sign was down. I count 4 other signs he should've seen here: http://goo.gl/maps/1o7F9

this flashing sign would've been activated here: http://goo.gl/maps/ATlyv

The close call with this footbridge here: http://goo.gl/maps/fv1jV

And finally this sign on the underpass itself here: http://goo.gl/maps/AHKMQ

Not to mention the fact that maybe the driver should have been paying attention and noticed "gee that underpass looks a bit low".

Sure but if you want to blame the state go ahead. Wither personal responsibility.

Paul Levy said...


The first sign was missing.

The flashing sign would not have activated and is not visible at night.

The footbridge is not a close call, as it is higher. It does not even have an height marker on it.

Yes, the sign exists on the underpass. He could have/should have seen that. But those signs existed for years, and yet one vehicle per week crashed into those underpasses. That's why Geary added the rubber signs--the only successful, proven remedy.

Paul Levy said...


When you are coming from Harvard Square and entering Soldiers Field Road, the only low swinging sign that you could see was the one that was missing! If you are from out of town, you would not necessarily know about all the others in different locations.

Ironically, if the driver had exited when it was possible to get to the Mass Pike, he would have missed hitting Western Avenue underpass; but for some reason he missed that turnoff (which, btw, does NOT say, "trucks exit here"!)

All those remedies you suggest are not necessary, as the solution existed for years and was effective. Just restore the rubber signs. I note, btw, that DCR has now done so at the location in question.

Anonymous said...

they were coming from harvard, right?


not subtle

Paul Levy said...

The lower, rubber sign was missing. The picture on my blog showing it missing is from about 9:00am on the Sunday morning, February 3, after the Saturday evening accident.

It was replaced after the accident, as documented in this account sent to me by a friend on Tuesday:

"I was biking home yesterday (2/4 approx, 8:55 pm) and there were about 6 state police vehicles and a utility truck at the Harvard St bridge. The utility truck was doing some work on the 'too high' sign to enter Storrow eastbound - which would have been the ramp the bus had taken. I saw the utility truck leaving and the 'too high' sign was in place after it left."

Paul Levy said...

BTW, Anon, your image is from 2009. The point is that the signs have not been maintained. As I noted, by going to the actual site at the current time, you could have seen that this one was missing.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to me how many commenters are spending a lot of time and effort to document how stupid the bus driver was as opposed to the signage. Not sure what this means, since I don't live in Boston. Are Bostonians just inherently more argumentative? Surely it would be cheaper and more scientific to replace the rubber signs and then collect data on what happens, eh?

The recurring point in the several posts' comments about GPS having opportunities to improve are the ones that strike me. Hope the GPS/maps people are reading. In fact, hmmm, my nephew works for Google maps.......


Dani B. said...

Paul, you tested and know the flashing sign wasn't working? It's supposed to only go on when an over-height vehicle triggers a sensor so that's why it almost always appears to be off.

Anonymous said...

Dani, if you zoom in on your link to the flashing sign, you'll see the neon tubes are all smashed up, and some of the letters are missing. So it's clear the sign hasn't worked in a while.