DENVER — It’s a sunny afternoon just minutes before 5 p.m. on April 3, 2010 and a Regional Transportation District bus packed with passengers is heading north on Lincoln approaching 8th Street in downtown Denver.
At 8th the traffic light is already red.
The driver of the RTD bus is going approximately 30 miles-per-hour and never slows down.
In the intersection, the bus slams into a 2007 Volkswagen Rabbit, tossing it aside like a crumpled toy. The bus then hits a Ford F-150 pickup truck.
Both vehicles were going west on 8th and had the green light.
The impact of the crash tosses panicked passengers and shatters the front windshield of the massive bus.
Several people on the bus are injured but 29-year-old Dustin Peletier, riding in the Volkswagen, is killed instantly.
His girlfriend and passenger, 29-year-old Carla Miranda, dies a few hours later at the hospital.
There’s never been an explanation as to why the driver of the bus, Tidenekiyalesh Hawariyat, 30, didn’t slow down or stop for the red light.
Hawariyat pleaded guilty to two counts of careless driving resulting in death and one count of careless driving resulting in injury. She was sentenced to three years of probation.
FOX31 Denver wanted to know if this was an isolated incident or if RTD buses have continued to run red lights since the deadly crash 3 1/2 years ago.
Using the Colorado Open Records Act we obtained evidence from the four intersections in Denver equipped with red light cameras.
The answer we uncovered is yes.
FOX31 Denver found RTD vehicles have been cited for red light violations at least 84 times in the last 2 1/2 years.
Some citations are for crossing the white line after the light turned red but in other cases we found the huge buses blatantly blowing though intersections and clearly red lights.
The video FOX31 Denver obtained shows RTD buses like this one at 6th Avenue and Kalamath Street where the light turns yellow, then red, as the bus enters the camera’s view.
At 6th and Lincoln an extended bus clearly goes through a red light as the passenger cars surrounding it make the stop.
It’s the same story at 8th and Speer where another extended bus is caught on camera as the last vehicle though a solid red light.
FOX31 Denver shared the violations we found with the Assistant General Manager for RTD Communications Scott Reed.
Reed said Motor Vehicle Record checks are performed twice a year on bus operators. “Anytime there’s a situation where we might not be following all of the traffic regulations that’s a big concern,” Reed said.
We also showed Reed a video example of an RTD bus at 6th and Kalamath. The video shows the light is red at the intersection for at least 7 seconds before the bus goes through it.
“Yeah, that’s a clear violation something that we defiantly want to be sure that we follow-up with that bus operator and that is just not acceptable” Reed responded after watching the video clip captured by the red light camera.
Drivers who are cited for a red light violations are responsible for paying the ticket and the points against their license. Reed says if a driver loses their license they lose their RTD job.
According to RTD approximately 1,100 vehicles are in operation every day.
Reed said, “It’s all about safety that is our No. 1 priority so that is why we take this very, very seriously.”
He pointed out that other drivers on the road can also report red light violations or dangerous driving by those behind the wheel of RTD vehicles by calling the Transit Watch at 303-299-2911.