A Public Bus Driver, a Dead Passenger and Marijuana

This week, Torontonians found themselves looking in astonishment at a picture of a damaged bus that had rear-ended a truck. In the “accident” a woman passenger died. Torontonians struggled to understand how a bus driver could drive his bus at considerable speed into the rear end of a huge truck. Coffee shops were filled with conversations about how many public transit accidents and deaths have occurred involving Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) vehicles in 2011 alone.

The driver of the bus was 52-year –old William Ainsworth. Speculation ran wild as readers wondered about the skills, mind-set and condition of the Ainsworth involved in this week’s accident. Then this morning the media reported that the TTC driver had drugs in his possession.

What is even more interesting is that after the crash, the driver refused a TTC drug test which killed one passenger and injured 13 others. According to Detective Constable Carl Anderson, police officers at the scene did not conduct a police drug test because they had no reason to think the driver was intoxicated. Which leads many Torontonians to wonder what the police constables thought was the reason that the TTC driver drove a public bus into the rear end of a truck.

Many TTC riders believe that a TTC driver is regularly monitored and tested for intoxication and the influence of drugs. The fact that even after a crash, a TTC driver was not tested pretty much removes any comfort that TTC riders may have in the TTC’s drug monitoring.

One can’t help but ask why a TTC driver would refuse a drug test after being in a crash. Wouldn’t a test prove that he wasn’t intoxicated or under the influence, thereby making it easier for the TTC to defend against lawsuits? The only logical explanation is that the TTC driver was hiding something. It is possible, that the consequences of the outcome of the test would be worse than not taking the test.

Conveniently, it wasn’t until seven hours later that the police found what they believe “might have been marijuana”. Really…they couldn’t tell?

As an example of how similar situations are handled in other cities, on May 12th, 2008 in Bullitt County, Kentucky (United States) a bus with more than 50 elementary school students drove into a ditch. The driver was Tammy Capps (37) who was immediately put in jail to face criminal charges and also lost her job. According to Eric Farris (Bullitt County Board of Education attorney), “All bus drivers who are involved in any kind of accident is tested afterwards to determine if there is any alcohol or narcotics present in their system…There was a positive finding of marijuana in the driver’s system.” In addition bus drivers for the school system are subject to routine and random drug tests throughout the year.

The William Ainsworth accident and how it was handled does not reflect well on the bus driver, the TTC, Mayor Ford and Toronto Police Services. The information released by the media and information in reference to Ainsworth leads one to come up with at least one story of how a public bus driver ended up crashing his bus into the rear end of a large  truck, which killed one passenger (Jadranka Petrova, 43) and injured 13 others.

If the driver of a private car had crashed into the rear end of a large truck, resulting in the death of a passenger, that driver would be charged with at least careless driving and possibly manslaughter. What was the Ainsworth charged with?

It will be interesting to see how the TTC handles this. If they don’t end up firing Ainsworth then the riding public will lose much faith and confidence in Toronto’s public transit, even more than has already been lost with the scandals of the last two years. If Mayor Ford doesn’t do something, then the voters will look poorly upon him. As for police services, it is unknown what they can do at this point however, with the death of a passenger the public expects some serious charges.

It will be quite an accomplishment if the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents Transit workers, gets away without firing Ainsworth or having him charged.

Even more interesting will be watching what Ainsworth’s attorney does to keep him out of jail and avoiding liability from the crash. As for the stress Ainsworth must be facing, it could be enough to lead one to smoke.