Augusta school and public transit buses were involved in 47 crashes in the past year, costing taxpayers $56,000 in insurance claims.
That's down from the previous year, when there were 69 crashes at a cost of $182,735.
Augusta Public Transit's 12 buses were involved in 20 crashes in 2010. Five were caused by drivers, costing the city $17,213, according to information received from the city through an open records request. In 2009 there were 24 crashes, of which eight were at-fault accidents, costing $89,594.
Joe Crozier, a loss control officer for the city's Risk Management division, said the slightly lowered crash numbers were the result of an aggressive defensive driving program in which safety training is provided to new employees immediately.
The Richmond County school system's 142 to 150 active buses were involved in 27 crashes during the 2011 school year. Eighteen of those were caused by school bus drivers, costing $39,171, according to records released by the school system. During the 2010 school year there were 45 crashes, of which 30 were at-fault accidents, costing $93,141.
"I think we had a pretty good year," said Jimmy Wiley, the school system's director of transportation.
With GPS devices, supervisors can track whether a school bus driver is speeding, Wiley said. If a driver causes more than three accidents or a wreck with injuries, he is placed under review.
This month, private operator Mobility Transit Services took over operations of Augusta Public Transit. Mobility General Manger Mike Rosson said he doesn't have city safety data from previous years but that safety is something his company stresses.
The company holds monthly safety meetings for the entire staff, not just drivers. Also, managers study month-over-month and year-over-year accident trends, assessing whether accidents were preventable and whether certain parts of town are hot spots for accidents.
"Of course, we'd love to have zero accidents, but sometimes there are accidents that you do not foresee," Rosson said. "If it was not preventable, if the driver did everything you taught him to do, then we look at other factors, like the time of day or whether the area has a blind spot."