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Talking Buses Hit Seattle Streets to Improve Pedestrian Safety

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Metro buses killed seven people last year as the buses were turning, reports Seattle Times. Pedestrians are often inattentive, constantly looking down at their devices, walk off the curb, and are run over by the buses. Statistics show that child pedestrians are especially at risk for road-related accidents as well.

The city has decided to conduct an experiment to improve pedestrian safety. King County Metro Transit has outfitted ten buses with exterior strobes and speakers. As the bus turns, an automated female voice emits, “Caution, the bus is turning. Cuidado, autobús está virando.”

The warnings begin when a bus driver turns the front wheels 22.5 degrees to the right, and at a lesser angle turning left. “Automated warnings are designed mainly to prevent crashes in front of the bus, where on some vehicle models, a section of the frame known as the A pillar creates a notorious blind spot during right turns,” Seattle Times explains.

The Talking Bus Experiment in Seattle

The talking buses will be tested for a short period in Seattle. They were first tested on Third Avenue and around Pioneer Square. They will also run on Route 11, from downtown through the Pike-Pine and Madison Park areas, as well as other lines. It costs an estimated $4,000 per vehicle to add the new bus warning sound system at King County Metro.

During the trial phase, officials will monitor whether the noise level the warning system emits is unpleasant to nearby residents and businesses. People in other cities that have used similar safety features on buses have complained about the noise.

Metro general manager Kevin Desmond said, “That is one of the challenges with the talking-bus acceptance. What does it mean downtown when buses are talking all the time? What does it mean in a residential neighborhood?”

Similarly, the University of Washington is adding steel skirts on the sides of its delivery trucks. This safety feature, which will be included on all of the university’s 31 vehicles, will prevent bicyclists from falling under the trucks’ wheels.

Will the buses be worth the noise and expense?

City officials are hopeful that the talking buses will be accepted by the citizens of Seattle and reduce the amount of pedestrians that are killed and injured by buses each year.

Just last November, a pedestrian was struck by a King County Metro Transit in the early morning near the intersection of Lenora Street and 2nd Avenue. In January of 2013, a pedestrian walked right in front of a Metro bus on Third Avenue. (The bus driver was arrested for driving under the influence.)

If the talking buses are effective in reducing the risk of injury and death for pedestrians such as these is Seattle, officials believe the project will be worth the expense.

If you or your loved one was hurt in a city bus accident, please contact injury lawyer Max Meyers to discuss your options for compensation using our online contact form or call us at 425-242-5595.

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