How NYC's Best Bus Driver Stayed Crash-Free for 23 Years

Keeping your cool behind the wheel isn't complicated

If you're planning a trip to the New York City any time soon and want to keep safe as you make your way about, you couldn't do better than riding with NYC Transit bus operator Michael Sanua, who's been transporting New Yorkers and tourists through rain, snow, sleet and traffic since 1988 without a single smash-up.

His perfect record is even more impressive when you factor in the 268 crashes the most popular bus line, the M101, had in 2009 during its 12-mile daily run from Manhattan's Washington Heights to the East Village, making it the most dangerous bus route in New York City. The second most dangerous was the M15 with 203 crashes on its 14-mile route the same year.

New York bus drivers have received a lot of attention this week following the tragic crash of a casino tour bus in which fifteen people died. That bus, like many operated private companies, is among many that ferry gamblers from the city to Connecticut casinos. Sanua works for the city's Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs buses around the five burroughs of New York City.

The secret of Sanua's success? There isn't one, he says, speaking from the 100th Street depot in Manhattan. "The same rules apply to operating a bus that apply to civilians in their cars and most of them don't involve anything too complicated. The most important thing isn't to win a beef with another driver, criticize someone who doesn't drive well, or get where you're going at the speed of light. The most important thing is to be conscious of driving at all times, and get where you're going safely. It may sound boring, but that's the secret, if there is one."

Sanua says it's important to mentally prepare yourself for any possibility behind the wheel before you turn the key, so that the inevitable challenges you'll face on the road will be taken in stride. "I take a lot of deep breaths and just chill, chill, chill," he says. "We're all gonna have our days."

Here are five more Sanua tips shared with AOL Autos:

Leave enough time to get where you're going. "I tell some of my regular customers to plan their day and leave a couple of minutes early. When I leave my house to go to work, I plan for any unusual situation like a flat tire, traffic, anything. This way, you're not rushed, driving crazy or taking chances."

If someone cuts you off, say to yourself, "Ok, that one's yours, this one's mine, have a nice day.""You just have to watch your aggression because that's how [bad] things happen," says Sanua. "The cost of blowing your top is pretty high."

Diffuse beefs before they escalate. "One time I was going downtown and there was a big blockage ahead," Sanua says. "First thing I do is call control, like you're supposed to. A lady came up me and said, 'What's the problem?' I tell her we have to wait because there's traffic. She says, 'I gotta to go work!' She wanted to grab the handset and talk to control, and I told her she couldn't do that. It started to escalate a little bit. Then I stopped and thought of my ex-wife. Arguing with her is like arguing with the wall. So I just quit fighting---refused to get into it with her. It's a good plan to stick to. Just refuse to get into it. Now we're good friends."

Keep both hands on the wheel. "That's pretty self-explanatory," says Sanua. "If an emergency situation arises, you're gonna need both hands to properly respond."

Enjoy driving. "It sounds simple, but it works, Sanua says. "I love my job, even when there's traffic. I have a sort of Zen attitude, and I just really get into driving. You can, too."

The best day, according to Sanua, is a day where nothing happens and you get to and from where you're going without an incident, beef or near-miss.

"You're gonna find a lot of difficult people out there," Sanua says." You just have to let 'em go. People say, 'Where were you? What took you so long?' I say I'm here, that's more important. I take care of my customers. You have to keep the mentality that 'We're carrying fragile cargo. Like eggs. As you go, you get more experience. You're never too old to learn something."

Finally, Sanua has a message for civilians. The only famous driver of a bus anyone knows, especially in New York City is Ralph Kramden, played by the Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners TV show from the 1950s that is still re-run in many TV markets. In fact, there is a statue of the Kramden character outside Manhattan's Port Authority Bus Terminal. But, says Sanua, The Kramdenesque term "Bus driver" has been retired by his profession. They prefer "Bus operator."

If he keeps up his perfect record until retirement, maybe Sanua will get a statue as well.

More Information