What would you do if your bus driver was texting while driving? If you’re anything like San Francisco resident Shawn Higgins, who saw a bus driver texting on the 24 Divisadero bus, you’d try to stop it. Though Higgins was backed by other riders, her confrontation did not go over well with the driver, who “took out her iPhone and started recording us. On the bus. And saying ‘I’m going to show you. I’ll never pick you up again a—hole.'” In past years, San Francisco bus drivers have repeatedly been caught acting irresponsibly, highlighting the importance of reforming the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency’s policy toward its staff.
Of course, Muni was quick to distance itself from this week’s incident. “This is absolutely against our rules and regulations. Anytime anything like this happens, we try to take immediate action,” said Muni spokesman Paul Rose. But their actions don’t quite match the words; the driver was suspended immediately from her job, but was back in rotation only three days later. Muni drivers have also been caught sleeping, speeding, and snacking while operating trains, and are often faced with little or no punishment.
Earlier this year, the San Francisco Examiner reported that while 348 Muni drivers were involved in preventable bus accidents (sometimes multiple), the transit agency only planned to fire seven bus drivers. Noting that most Muni drivers have zero or one accident on their record, Rose said at the time “that’s saying that the vast majority of our operators are exceptional at what they do.” That may be true, but any bus accident should be considered unacceptable, as they can cause significant injury to passengers and cost the city a fortune. For one recent incident, the city of San Francisco agreed to a $2 million settlement for a passenger injured in a train accident.
Bus accidents aside, San Francisco Muni has recently been cited for some infrastructure problems, and is currently being investigated by the California Public Utilities Commission for consistent safety violations. In late February, the California PUC said the city’s transit tracks could “present a public safety risk, and could result in…possible derailments” constituting “a public safety hazard.” PUC President Michael Peevey has said the agency is currently in the process of determining “whether SFMTA’s behavior violates the law, and if so, whether fines and penalties are appropriate.”
Public transportation drivers who break the law by texting behind the wheel put passengers and San Francisco pedestrians in danger, and hold the city hostage to millions in legal fees and settlements. So if you’re on a bus and see your driver on the cell phone, follow Higgins’ lead and try to stop it before the inevitable bus accident.
Photo credit: randychiu