Bus Safety Expert Comments on Fall Caused by Defective Safety Stair

    Joseph O'Neill

    Written by
    — Updated on September 25, 2017

    Bus Expert WitnessThis case involves an elderly man with a history of knee problems. Prior to the events of this case, the man had undergone a total knee replacement, as well as a subsequent revision surgery. The man frequently rode a certain bus in order to visit his children in another city about an hour’s drive from his home. On the date of the incident in question, he exited the bus at the station and fell, causing significant damage to his prosthetic knee. The man claimed that the driver had failed to place a safety step at the bottom of the bus’s staircase, which had been present during each of his previous trips.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Are you familiar with the proper steps and protocols that need to be followed when an elderly rider is entering and/or exiting the bus?
    • 2. Do you have experience training bus drivers / bus companies in regards to safety protocol?

    Expert Witness Response E-010185

    I have done several dozen cases involving negligent boarding and alighting. Indirectly, I have trained thousands or tens of thousands of motorcoach drivers through 14 years’ of monthly articles in National Bus Trader magazine. Otherwise, I coordinated the training (providing some of it myself) for my own 70-vehicle paratransit system whose operations I directed for 10 years. And I have spoken at numerous national conferences, and written other articles for other trade magazines — both of which are attended and read by tens of thousands of drivers, over the past 25 years or so. The step stool is not the issue here. There are two principal issues: (1) For EVERY passenger (60% of all motorcoaches are elderly), the driver is supposed to position him or herself at the bottom of the stepwell to physically assist (if the passenger needs or requests it) the passenger onto the stepwell or down from the bottom step to the ground (2) Every motorcoach has a “kneeling” feature, whereby the driver lower the front step well by 5 inches — thus even onto the ground, the distance would now only be about 9 inches (the same as the riser height of the other steps), and onto a curb, the distance down would only be about 4 inches. And the industry standard is to lower this front stepwell (takes about 4 seconds, and two seconds to raise up again) for elderly or disabled passengers (and for those others, like small children, for whom it makes sense. The step stool is not totally unimportant. If that was the defendant’s practice, then the company violated its own policies. However, the step stool could be dangerous without the participation of the driver into helping a passenger step onto and off it. And certain types of step stools are “purpose-built” for transportation purposes, while others can be dangerous. Regardless, the lack of driver assistance is the key.

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