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String of Transportation Accidents continues at WDW

Can we please stop with the WDW transportation accidents. We’ve had monorail troubles, bus problems ranging from crashes to old GPS transponders being mistaken for a bomb, and even a cast member being struck by a car from the Tomorrowland Speedway. I’m afraid to ask that they bring back the Canoes or Keel boats for fear of a shark attack.

Earlier today there was a rear-end collision when a Disney bus did not stop at a street light in time and struck the vehicle in front of them, which then collided with the car in front of them. Your standard everyday fender bender, but made more dangerous by the huge multi-ton bus.

Early reports stated that the Disney bus driver was 81 years old. That was later revised to 80 years old. I don’t blame anyone who wants or needs to work for taking the best available job for them. And I’m trusting that Disney has all their ducks in a row with tests and physicals they say they put their drivers through (although I’m sure someone is double-checking those ducks right now).

My question is why would someone 80 years old be required to work for food and shelter. We need to take better care of our elders here in the US. I don’t know this driver’s particular circumstances and don’t think The Disney Blog is the place to discuss or solve this particular problem. But it does strike me as very odd.

Thankfully no one was injured badly in the accident (although I’m sure there is some soreness). Also thankfully none of the string of bus accidents appear to be due to mechanical failure or other maintenance issues. So what is the cause?

I can think of a number of what I call contributing factors:  employees under stress (either economic or over worked), a change in schedule or routine, bad weather, distractions for the driver by guests or mobile devices, or health related matters could all be a factor in any accident. What Disney can do about any of these is a question.

I do hope Disney is doing some investigation of their own into the cause. If they are, they need to come out and announce they’ve launched a study on improving safety in their Transportation System. Perhaps there is some new technology, like proximity radar, that will help. But at this point the public needs to be reassured that Disney is getting to the bottom of this and they’re going to put a stop to it. Disney’s public image is changing away from a safe place to have a family vacation to one where the real world all too often intrudes, they have to get infront of that one now.

What steps do you suggest Disney take?

(via the Orlando Sentinel)

18 thoughts on “String of Transportation Accidents continues at WDW”

  1. You make excellent, excellent points.

    It’s shocking that the driver was 80 years old. Now maybe he was perfectly healthy, and doing it for fun, but your point about having to work at that age is well taken. No one should *have* to be working at that age.

    At this point I’m expecting WEDway cars to just start spontaneously combusting…

  2. Their first step in the short run needs to be to raise the standards, like age and experience, for their bus drivers. In the long run, they need to look into a more efficient mass transit system, like monorails or light-rail trains, and leave the roads for the cars. Three accidents in two weeks is three too many.

  3. I have never thought twice about the safety of the Disney transportation system, that is until now. While I don’t think I am at the point where I will avoid it, I would like to hear from Disney and acknowledgement that this latest string of accidents has led to a review of procedures and XYZ improvements. A lot of people on msg boards I frequent are of the same mind and I think such an announcement would go a long way. That is of course unless the pattern continues.

  4. I’m going to take a probably unpopular and business-centric view here and state that Disney’s transit systems are amongst the safest in the country, even with accidents.

    WDW has, on average, approximately 250,000 people on property at any given instant. This makes it a mid-sized city. There are no other mid-sized cities I can think of in the country with as good of a transportation record as WDW.

    That being said, a lot of the things that have happened recently were totally avoidable, and I suspect the economy (working more hours for less money) combined with carelessness led to most of these situations.

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  6. Honestly I think they’re all coincidences. Bad luck certainly, but it’s not going to make me think twice about stepping aboard a Disney bus. No more than the 20 car pile up in my own city made me think twice about getting in my car that morning. Accidents happen, even to people who haven’t had a moving violation for 20+ years. There’s a reason they’re called accidents.
    I know my parents live and work in FL right now. They’ll retire when they’re ready, and even when they retire, they’ll probably take a day or two a week at Disney. They’re not the kind of people who are going to sit inside just because they’re not working full time. My grandfather is 80 and still works on a part time basis. He hasn’t been in an accident in years and is one of the best drivers I know. Saying that it’s because the driver is 80 is looking for a scapegoat and I for one am not buying it.

  7. Not an unpopular view from where I sit, Brian. Here in the DC area, not a week goes by that the news is devoid of stories about being people hurt or killed through our local mass transit system because of faulty equipment, unskilled drivers, drivers breaking the rules, or other freak accidents. Riding the Red Line into downtown meant at least one day a month having to find a workaround because of an underground fire. Although some of the Disney transportation stories have an avoidable angle to them, I’ve not heard of gross idiocity like you find in another mass transit situation–things like drivers texting while behind the wheel, driving drunk/under the influence, road rage incidents, and the like.

    Do safety upgrades and better maintenance need to be done? Absolutely. Does Disney need to really take a hard look at core training and make that a top priority? Certainly. Is Disney in any worse shape out there than any other business organization, city, or amusement park? Hardly.

    For me personally, I’m more terrified of the idea of flying to Disney than getting around Disney. (Then again, that’s why I’ve sworn off flying and will take my better odds on Amtrak!)

  8. The first word that jumped out at me reading this post was “routine”:

    contributing factors: . . . a change in schedule or routine

    While the flexible bus routing has made guest transport a lot more efficient, it has also taken the drivers off of anything resembling a routine. Bus routes in other cities are all strictly mapped, and drivers tend to run the same route day in and day out for weeks or months at a time, if not longer. A Disney bus driver is lucky to run between the same two points more than twice in a shift.

    Without that routine, it’s a lot harder to develop muscle memory and familiarity with the quirks of a stretch of road. To use an example my wife came up with, the GPS may say, “in one mile, turn right”, and you’ll get in the right lane…but without long familiarity, you might not realize that there’s a right-turn-only intersection in 1/2 mile in the right lane, and you’ll have to get out of that lane quickly. The familiarity will still come over time, but it takes longer than if you drove the same route over and over.

  9. This latest driver invovled had been reported before… Here is a quote: “What a WONDERFUL, PERFECT, OUTSTANDING, AMAZING,INCREDIBLE,FANTASTIC,SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICE XPIALIDOCIOUS DISNEY DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Well, at the parks that is, the magic ended when we got on the bus. We had a driver named Fred. He was driving so fast he ramped 3 curbs even after people told him to slow down. One time he ramped one a kids head nailed the window and he started crying and screaming. He took off at one point and shut the door when people were standing up trying to exit the bus and they almost all fell over like dominos. At this point Tim and another guys said “hey, DUDE, you have people trying to get off back here and you’re taking off and they are falling down, open your eyes!” To which he said “You want to drive the bus buddy!!!” Oh man, our blood was boiling. At one point he came back to the unload a wheelchair which was right by us and Tim and the other guy calmly said “you need to slow down, you have kids hitting windows, people falling down, you are ramping curbs left and right” the guy got angry and defensive and kept saying “well, then you drive the bus! I’ve been driving longer than you’ve been living! I ramp curbs all the time, it’s no big deal, that ‘s what happens in these buses, everyone ramps the curbs.” GEEZ. The other guy kept saying “don’t argue with guests please Fred” but he kept it up.(bare in mind this was just a DAY after the monorail accident you would think Fred would be taking public transportation safety a little more seriously) Well, we were a LITTLE fired up by the time we got back to Saratoga and Tim and the guy headed to the front desk with the bus number and Fred’s name to report him. They did seem to take the complaint very seriously so I’m hoping Fred is no longer driving Disney buses. While Tim and the guy were up complaining about Fred the bus driver from hell the kids and I grabbed some snacks at Springs. Then we all walked back to the room and sack around 11pm.”

  10. I would imagine that the 80-year-old driver isn’t working for “food and shelter,” but he’s probably working for Disney perks for his grandchildren or something.

    Commercial airline pilots are required to retire at a certain age (it used to be 60 but I think it’s gone up?) and I think the same should be true for all commercial transportation operators. But what age? Would I rather have an experienced 76 year old bus driver or an inexperienced 19 year old driver? That’s a tough one.

    I too think this is just a sad coincidence. With the numbers of passengers on Disney transportation vehicles there are bound to be accidents. How do the accident rates at Disney compare to national accident rates?

    I won’t hesitate to ride Disney transportation the next time I’m there. None of this recent news impacts how I feel about my safety there. Accidents happen, that’s why we call them “accidents.”

    1. i was going to post to say exactly this. i’ve talked to quite a few retiree cast members that work there more for the pleasure of guest interaction and the perks of free park access rather than the pay (which as we all know, isn’t much).

      not to say that this is necessarily the situation with this gentleman, but i agree that automatically assuming that he’s working to pay his bills is naive.

  11. We don’t know if this person NEEDED to work at 80 (maybe he only wanted to, just to keep active). That said, at that age reflexes are not at their best, so I believe that maybe an age cap would be a good thing for a bus driver.
    On the other hand, Disney have to check what is happening with its Public Transportation system. In less than a month have been two accidents that seem to be directly related to the bus driver.

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  15. Walt Disney World in general, is still a very, very, VERY safe place to visit. With a fatality rate of 1 in 100 million visitors over the last 21 years, and a daily average of more than 120,000 visitors makes the likelihood of a fatal accident miniscule, especially when compared to other cities with this size daily population. However, I believe these latest accidents may point to a potential issue of just how much stress is put on the transportation system(s) at WDW. I don’t think the systems are unsafe, but I do think that they’ve been very lucky considering the mix of people and cars that travel those roads daily. Further, I believe it’s past time that Disney upgrades their transportation system for their on-property guests. While the busses have proven to be a very efficient mode of transit for moving guests, are far from elegant, especially at the end of the day when you’re crammed into one like a sardine with 50-60 other hot, sweaty, stinky guests.
    Please Disney, for the comfort and safety of your “valued” guests, rectify this situation. Begin now building a modern transportation system like the founder for whom you named this great resort envisioned.

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