Muni director issues safety warning

Stop, look and listen: If on Tuesday two people had followed that advice, which is plastered on posters throughout the Muni system, they might not be injured and the transit agency could have been saved big bucks on damage.

In the wake of two accidents Tuesday — one that Muni said was caused by a careless pedestrian and another that involved a car trying to make a U-turn in front of a train — San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Executive Director Nathaniel Ford appealed to pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers to be more conscientious of the roadway around mass-transit vehicles.

Ford also said Muni is considering more aggressively seeking damages from people whose errors in judgment cause damage to Muni vehicles, a change he said is in response to the SFMTA’s budget woes.

Ford and other transit leaders made the appeal Wednesday for the public’s help to keep everyone safe. The agency has had several high-profile accidents in recent weeks, including two Tuesday that sent four people to the hospital.

The first occurred around 2:43 p.m. when a southbound 33-Stanyan bus began to pull away from the curb on Stanyan Street near Fulton Street. Ford said a pedestrian had been running for the bus and slipped on the wet pavement, falling under the vehicle’s tire. He was hospitalized with serious injuries.

About five hours later, an L-Taraval light-rail vehicle collided with a car on Taraval Street between 20th and 21st avenues when the car attempted a U-turn in front of the streetcar. Three of the car’s occupants were injured.

“Yesterday, we had two accidents that clearly could have been avoided,” Ford said. “We do need the public’s support in terms of focusing on safety and their surroundings.”

Only about 20 percent of Muni accidents are Muni’s fault, agency Safety Director Jim Dougherty said. The remaining 80 percent are unavoidable on the part of Muni drivers, he said.

Until now, in those instances, Muni had asked for compensation from the at-fault vehicle’s insurance, Ford said. But in recent weeks, as the agency has been pouring over its budget looking for ways to save money, the idea of going after even more money in those cases has arisen. He said the agency will consider seeking greater compensation from the at-fault parties.

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