The president of the Amalgamated Transit Union said Edmonton city bus drivers have faced backlash amid recent charges laid against two operators in connection with two fatal pedestrian collisions.
“There’s some trepidation on the part of operators as they slip behind the wheel. These things are in our minds,” Steven Bradshaw, president of the union, said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, police charged 62-year-old Edmonton Transit driver Judith Jackson with one count of failing to yield to a pedestrian in crosswalk under the Traffic Safety Act. The charge stemmed from a collision in the area of 137 Avenue and 40 Street on Nov. 26.
Mariama Sillah, 13, was walking home from grabbing dinner at Subway when she was struck by the bus while in a marked crosswalk. Sillah died at the scene.
“The union sends along its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the victim of this terrible tragedy. It can’t be good for them either,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw said Jackson has a good, long-standing record as a driver with Edmonton Transit.
“She’s a great driver and she’s very popular among her fellow operators. So it’s difficult for those others of us out there knowing that if it can happen to her, it can happen to anyone in the blink of an eye.”
Jackson was the second city bus driver in recent months to be charged with failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
In October, 42-year-old Kellie Rowe was charged in connection with a fatal collision in the area of 87 Avenue and 169 Street. On Oct. 4, an 83-year-old woman was struck by a city bus while walking in a marked crosswalk. She was treated at the scene and taken to hospital where she died of her injuries.
Bradshaw said the collisions have been top-of-mind for drivers over the past couple months.
“Our membership are professional operators and they will do their jobs the way they’ve always done them – safely and carefully. However, they are deeply affected by charges being laid against a fellow member and it’s a deep concern to them,” he said.
“There’s been some public backlash against drivers and with that in mind I would ask people to consider the millions and millions of kilometres that our 1,600 operators drive every year safely and without incident.”
After the October collision, Bradshaw voiced concerns that issues with blind spots on city buses may have played a role in the collision.
“At the front corner of the bus, to the operator’s left, there’s a sizeable pillar that causes a blind spot and in addition to that there’s a sizeable mirror – the rear-view mirror is right beside it – and at its widest point, that can be as much as 14 inches wide, depending on the orientation of the driver and the size and position of the seat,” he said. “So that constitutes a significant hazard.
“Every 10 days, somewhere in North America, a pedestrian is severely injured or killed because of these blind spots.”
Watch below: Global News gets a firsthand look of just how blind a blind spot can be for Edmonton bus drivers. The issue was raised in the aftermath of a tragic crash that took the life of a city senior who was crossing the street. Vinesh Pratap has the story.
Bradshaw said the union will stand by both of its members as their cases move through the courts.
“A charge is just a charge. It’s not a conviction. This hasn’t been to a judge,” Bradshaw said regarding the most recent charge. “Let’s find out what the judge has to say about it and go forward from there.”