New Jersey 101.5 video

As the Essex County Prosecutor's Office continues to investigate August's fatal NJ Transit bus crash in Newark, NJ Transit officials are now scrambling to figure out why one of their buses was driving toward oncoming traffic on a Garden State Parkway exit ramp last week.

Videos of both the Newark crash and of the bus going the wrong way have raised concern about NJ Transit bus safety, but a spokesman for the agency says their overall safety record is excellent.

“In 2014 we saw five fatalities. In 2015 there were two. And so far this year to date, we’ve seen three fatalities," said spokesman Jim Smith. "But one fatality is too many for NJ Transit, and we continue to work to improve our safety mechanisms, to continue to drive these numbers as low as possible."

He stressed it’s important to keep things in perspective.

On the average weekday, NJ Transit buses carry 500,000 passengers. The buses travel 80 million miles a year.

"The vast, vast majority of trips on NJ Transit are conducted safely and appropriately,” he said.

Smith said NJ Transit bus operators “are among the most highly trained and well versed in safety in the entire nation, and many of our drivers have not had an accident, let alone a fatality for decades.”

The agency has been working to find new ways to enhance safety, even when the bus is making a low-speed turn.

“NJ Transit has been one of the leading agencies to implement an audible turn warning alert in both English and Spanish that will sound a vocal warning to pedestrians outside the bus,” he said.

“Also, with our union partners we’ve created training videos, used prominently in our fundamental training efforts to properly train the drivers.”

When it comes to safety training programs, NJ Transit now has “some of the most vigorous and high tech in the state."

"In fact, it’s so well regarded that other entities that have bus operators, they will request that their operators attend our program.”

Recently, NJ Transit accidents that made the news include a bus last month that hit and killed a 59-year-old man crossing the road in Galloway. In October, a bus hit a pickup truck on Route 9 in Howell, knocking out power to a neighborhood. In Newark, 13 people were hurt when a car hit a bus. In September, a bus rear-ended another bus in the Lincoln Tunnel.

PIX11 video

Also on New Jersey 101.5:

Contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.