New cameras installed on Muni to improve safety

In an effort to improve safety and monitor its drivers, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said Tuesday that it has finishing installing and activating cameras on all of its trolley, biodiesel and biodiesel-electric hybrid buses.

Agency officials said the so-called “DriveCam” system, which cost $1.2 million, uses interior and exterior cameras to record collisions and other unsafe driving behavior.

The cameras will record and download a few seconds of footage before and after incidents in which vehicles experience an exceptional force, such as hard braking or swerving.

The recordings will be used for safety investigations and operator instruction, according to Municipal Transportation Agency officials.

The cameras are separate from surveillance cameras, which were installed on Muni vehicles sometime ago, although they don't always work.

The surveillance cameras are supposed to record a continuous loop but the new cameras will only be activated when there's unusual movement.

Nathaniel Ford, the agency's executive director and chief executive, said in a statement, “This state-of-the-art system is an important new tool to improve the safe operation of Muni vehicles.”

Ford said the activation of the new system “represents a continuation of the ongoing commitment to the safe and reliable operation of Muni.”

Agency officials said they will use DriveCam as a tool to improve driving behavior, assess liability from collisions and reduce expenses incurred from such incidents that can include vehicle damage, worker's compensation and personal injury.

James Dougherty, the agency's director of safety security and enforcement, said in a statement, “Operators who engage in unsafe behavior must be trained or disciplined.”

He said DriveCam will be used as an important component of the agency's training system.

The agency said the $1.2 million contract covers the installation of the equipment and a one-year subscription to the DriveCam service, which includes technical support analysis.

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