How to navigate Toronto-area traffic like a GO pro
Veteran operator shares road wisdom that has helped him stay in control for 30 years on the road.
Mar 28, 2019
When you’ve threaded the needle of Canada’s busiest highways from high up a GO bus driver’s seat for three decades, you learn something about untangling gridlock.
When Derrick Sealy began driving for GO Transit back in 1989, Kevin Costner’s seminal baseball movie, ‘Field of Dreams’, as well as Madonna’s album ‘Like a Prayer’, were both shiny and new.
Having worked in the bus garage for a decade, Sealy had already been with the transit company for a decade before he got behind that wheel.
Over the many years, Sealy has helped get generations of customers to home, work, ballgames, shopping, gender-reveals, job interviews, museum visits, vital medical appointments, weddings, funerals and an endless number of other destinations – all while driving the equivalent of more than 57 times around the Earth.
“Derrick is a true example of what being a GO Transit driver means,” says Laurie Stratton, director of bus and rapid transit services. “He is valued by his peers, respected by his management team and trusted by his customers.”
So yes, he has something to teach us all. Though keep in mind, he’s not even the longest-serving driver GO has guiding a fleet of more than 500 buses on Ontario highways and byways.
As well as time on the road, it’s the well-earned road wisdom Sealy has also accumulated that he’s happy to deliver. Because most motorists who drive the same asphalt around the Greater Golden Horseshoe will admit – if they’re being honest – it’s difficult to cut a smoother path than an experienced GO driver.
And to not lose your temper every time someone does something stupid right in front of your bumper.
When the grandfather, and father of six, began driving for GO, he was asked the same repeated question from people he knew: “Are you crazy for wanting to drive?” But Sealy found it suited his calm demeanor and ability to stay focused.
So this is his first tip for navigating traffic.
“I don’t look at my phone or even use the (hands-free) attachment,” he explains. “I don’t listen to music or have any distractions. You have to just drive.”
Though there is a communication radio. And he does allow himself tunes that play in his head as he continually lightly taps on the bus steering wheel.
“All the music you need,” he’s sure.
He’s learned there is no road that doesn’t require defensive driving techniques – something all GO drivers are well trained in – as well as calm, immediate reactions.
“There are a lot of things that could make you angry, if you let them,” he explains. “So why let them?
“I’ve been driving for so long, that if I let everything upset me on the road, I couldn’t do the job properly.”
After recently braking for pedestrians crossing in front of his right-of-way – oblivious on their phones – Sealy was commended by a passenger who watched the scene unfold.
“Bus drivers sure do earn their pay,” the passenger told Sealy once the bus stopped.
Raising his children, he taught them to drive the same way, he says, adding when it came time for his daughter to take her test, the instructor noticed how calm and sure she was behind the wheel.
“My father is a bus driver,” she explained.
From his perch, Sealy watches as motorists continually switch lanes, trying to outsmart the ebb and flow of traffic. But as well as getting instant alerts sent by other bus drivers on the status of routes – he currently makes trips to Richmond Hill and Hamilton – he knows of a perfect position on most highways. He goes with the flow and largely takes the middle lane.
“I just watch as I keep passing those who jump around the lanes,” he notes.
He also teaches the importance of constantly checking your mirrors.
After three decades – and about 330 new kilometres each day – there’s another tip to be learned from Sealy. Something to beat the aggravation and always be in the proper lane.
Just join the untold tens of thousands who have settled in his back seats.
Sealy isn’t sure when he will stop the bus and retire. But after threading the needle so long, he’s certain he can put his calm hands to good use.
He’s thinking of going back to school to enroll in a course to sew homemade clothes.
by Thane Burnett Manager of editorial content for Metrolinx