Bus driver fired after fatal accident

I just got the following notice from the Chapel Hill Town Manager's offce:

We are saddened by the tragic accident of Valerie Hughes, who died on Oct. 28 after being struck by a bus while crossing a street in Chapel Hill. We wish to express our deepest sympathy to her family and to her friends.

The driver of the Chapel Hill Transit bus involved in the accident, James Orr, was placed on administrative leave without pay immediately. The Town of Chapel Hill conducted an internal investigation consistent with Town policy and statutory guidelines.

Effective November 3, 2008, James Orr, Transit Operator II was terminated as an employee of the Town of Chapel Hill.

The Town Council has expressed an ongoing concern with pedestrian safety, and this unfortunate accident highlights our need to continue and improve upon that effort.



I'm sorry to hear the driver was terminated without more details being made available. These drivers do a very hard job, for not a lot of money. Accidents, are by definition, not intentional.

The woman who was killed was in a crosswalk and had the light. This was apparently involuntary manslaughter, and based on what I know so far I am not sorry that the bus driver was fired.

James Coley

The following appeared in yesterday's Chapel Hill News.

A police investigation found Orr's bus struck Hughes while she had a "walk" signal to use the crosswalk at the intersection of Mason Farm Road and South Columbia Street, near UNC Hospitals where Hughes worked.

This confirms my earlier claim. My source remains confidential. I did not know that Orr had a history of bad driving. All this should remind us that it is the motor vehicle that is the source of danger, not pedestrians or bikes.James Coley

Has the driver been charged with involuntary manslaughter? If so, the notice Ruby got should have said so. I believe we still live in a society based on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.



I don't know the details, but it's possible the town has to fire the driver as a consequence of the legal charges now filed against him.  The fact that charges have been filed agaisnt this driver suggest quite difference circumstances than the previous accident in the spring. The driver of that bus was not charged AFAIK. 

 We will have to wait until due process takes its course to know more.  My thoughts go out to the woman who died as well as the driver.

John Rees

This presumption is a legal standard that has no bearing on what I and others outside the legal system may believe or say.

James Coley

This whole situation is a terrible tragedy.  I know that Chapel Hill Transit does the best they can to look out for the safety and well-being of our entire community.  My heart goes out to the friends and family of Ms. Hughes.

For those discussing the situation here, pleaes be aware: The Chapel Hill Town Manager is limited severely, by North Carolina state law, in what he can say about personnel decisions that he makes.  So please be understanding of his position; he really cannot elaborate on the whys and wherefores.

Let me also say that I do not know anything more about the accident than what I have read in the newspapers.

My heart goes out to both the victim's family and to the bus driver however I am appalled at the lack of planning for pedestrian safety on and around UNC's campus. The various construction projects in the Health Affairs part of campus often leave pedestrians no reasonable options for making their way to a bus stop or to walk down the street on a sidewalk. My office in the Health Sciences Library looks out on Columbia Street where the state DOT is implementing a completely crazy plan to create a bus lane and passenger pull-off lane that will require that passengers will disembark into the traffic lane. I don't know how this plan passes ADA requirements but the construction is well underway. What I observe is that the bus drivers are increasingly aggressive as they bare down, with horns blarring, on anyone in the bus lane. I have see this happen when a car was stopped to let out a passenger on crutches. I think the bus drivers need to chill out.

I think the university should award construction contracts based, in part, on the contractor's plan for pedestrian safety during the construction period. Instead it appears that pedestrians are an afterthought once the construction projects starts. In the case of the multiple pedestrian hazards due to the construction at the dental school and and "improvements" to south Columbia street, it appeared that no thought was given to where pedestrians were to walk until the sidewalks had been blocked for a couple of weeks.

I hope that UNC and the town will take pedestrian seriously before we have anymore accidents.

Diana McDuffee



The recent article (http://www.chapelhillnews.com/front/story/27299.html) in the Chapel Hill News does not address some important questions: what sort of accident rate do other municipalities have (in NC, and elsewhere).  We have no perspective.  How does training of drivers compare to other places?  What are their directives regarding "on-time" performance and are the schedules appropriate to allow for drivers to err on the side of caution, time-wise?  What do the drivers think? My own observation is that the buses are driven very aggressively.  This is particularly apparent when they are pulling out from a stop.  Are they taught this, or is it somehow implicit in what they are told to do, or are they under inappropriate pressures?


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