Baltimore Traffic Safety News: Maryland Transit Authority Buses “Speak” to Help Pedestrians Avoid Potential Injury

As reported not long ago, pedestrians in Maryland’s urban areas are apparently some of the most at-risk groups in the nation. This is not a distinction that many would be proud of, but it is a fact that persons on foot and riding bicycles here in Baltimore, or over in Annapolis, Rockville or Washington, D.C., have a high likelihood of being struck by a car, SUV, pickup or commercial deliver truck than pedestrians in other states.

As Maryland personal injury lawyers, we can understand the pain and suffering that can occur following an pedestrian-automobile collision, much less a crash involving a bicycle and commercial truck, or city bus. And apparently the MTA (Maryland Transit Authority) also understands the risks.

No long ago, news articles reported that 10 so-called talking buses were being put into service here in Baltimore with the intent to reduce the chances of tragic pedestrian accidents. According to reports, the MTA is running tests of this talking bus technology, which is designed to warn people that one of these large vehicles is bearing down on them.

The idea is to alert individuals who might otherwise be distracted and not aware of the presence of a city bus amidst all the noise and activity in a metropolitan area. While the concept may seem a little silly to some, it’s no joke that many people have been seriously injured or even killed by commuter buses in the past.

According to the news reports, the “voice” of these buses is female and announces to everyone within earshot a repeating message of, “Pedestrians, bus is turning.” Bus drivers have apparently noticed a distinct difference in that way that people on foot react to the rather authoritative warning. The test buses are equipped with one of two different systems during the trial period.

Out of the 100-plus fatal pedestrian accidents in Maryland, the percentage of city bus-related pedestrian deaths in Maryland are rather small, however the MTA’s actions speak volumes. Back in February, publicity from the death of a spokeswoman for the state medical examiner’s office shined the spotlight again on the MTA.

Apparently prompted by such high-profile incident, the MTA has obviously taken this step to reduce the chances of further bus-pedestrian accidents, which can maim or kill people and result in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits for municipalities. The problem extends to every state; the total number of pedestrian fatalities in all of the U.S. from 2000 to 2009 totaled just under 400, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The warning system is controlled by sensors that detect when the vehicle’s steered wheels are being turned by the driver, at which time the announcement is activated — according to reports the automated voice can be heard from within the vehicle if passengers know what to listen for.

The MTA’s pilot program will probably conclude before summer, at which time a decision will be made whether or not to adopt the system for the entire fleet. If the MTA does decide to equip its city buses with the system, cost per bus is expected to range from $1,500-$2,500.

‘Talking’ buses alert pedestrians,, March 28, 2011

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