Yes, there’s something disconcerting about Metrobuses hitting other cars, and even more disturbing when they hit pedestrians that are legally crossing the street. But how extensive are the accidents when placed in the larger context of all the Metrobus trips that happen on a daily basis?

We put the question to Metro, and here’s some of what we got.

The sample of videos WTOP got from on-board cameras is relatively small — “134 near-collision videos, along with dozens showing collisions, traffic violations and even pedestrian accidents” from August and September 2011. (WTOP posted 21 with its story.)

According to Metro, those 12-second clips come out of more than a million hours of footage from the same timeframe. On any given day, Metrobuses complete roughly 14,400 trips on 323 routes, ferrying 453,000 passengers. At peak hours, 1,250 Metrobuses are on area roads. All told, Metrobuses go 50 million miles a year. Currently, the customer injury rate is two per million passengers.

In his article, sharp WTOP transit reporter Adam Tuss gave Metro a chance to make this very argument. Moreover, the videos, as scary as they are, are useful. If Metro officials are monitoring them as they claim they are and using them to judge how good their drivers are, then the cameras are serving their purpose.

Still, the CNN article on the videos shows how limited sampling like this can have a negative effect on public discourse:

“It is pretty egregious, and it’s clearly the inattention of the driver that’s at issue here,” said Joan Claybrook, president emeritus of the safety watchdog group Public Citizen, when CNN showed her the video of a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority bus running a red light and nearly colliding with another vehicle.


Asked about Metro bus drivers in the Washington area, Claybrook said “They clearly need more training if you have examples like this.”

While each individual video might seem “shocking,” they become less so when set against the entirety of the Metrobus trips that happen on a daily basis.

Martin Austermuhle blogs at DCist . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.