The Billings Transit Bus system has had a hectic month, including three crashes in less than two weeks, all of which were a result of other drivers running red lights.
Lee Laird has been driving for the MET bus system in Billings for seven years, so he's familiar with the occasional reckless driver. A couple of weeks ago, however, Laird was involved in a T-bone collision after a nearby vehicle ran a red light.
"Just all of the sudden, boom," Laird said Thursday morning. "I was thinking, 'Where did that come from? How did this happen?'"
Laird was driving his familiar route when the incident happened, and he said it's a moment that shook him to his core.
"It really wasn't so much as being scared, but more of just being surprised," Laird said.
Fortunately, no one, including the passengers on Laird's bus, were harmed in the accident. Laird said that their safety is his top priority.
"That's the most important part," Laird said. "All of this can be repaired. All of this can be replaced. Lives can't."
But Laird isn't the only driver in Billings who's recently experienced a close call. Transit Manager Rusty Logan said the service has had three accidents in a 10-day span.
"We've had three separate instances where a car has ran through a red light and driven into the side of our bus," Logan said.
Logan said that his drivers are used to the occasional incident, but the recent increase in crashes is certainly alarming.
"There is a lot of distracted driving going on out there," Logan said. "People aren't paying attention to what's going on in front of them."
And Laird said that it's puzzling that each of the accidents involves another vehicle ignoring the traffic light.
"It shouldn't be a guessing game when you pull up at an intersection," Laird said. "But it seems lately, here in Billings, we have a lot of people running red lights."
Laird is hoping drivers slow down and stay patient. He also wants people to remember that he and his fellow bus drivers are doing their best.
"This is my office," Laird said, while sitting in the driver's seat of a MET bus. "Please be patient. It's not worth trying to save six seconds."