MTA 'zero tolerance' cell phone crackdown

December 23, 2010 3:22:27 PM PST
Talk about sending a message.

The MTA now plans to send a strong message to city bus drivers who text or talk on their cell phones, while driving.

Under the new "zero tolerance" policy any driver caught doing this just once could be fired.

Passengers Eyewitness news spoke to couldn't agree more with the policy.

"Yes, because they are in charge of all the people in the bus, so we cannot afford it," said one woman.

"If they have proof that they were doing it, yes, they shouldn't be doing it," said Sam Kirschner, a bus passenger.

But will the punishment always be fair?

Civil libertarians and the Transport Workers Union are concerned.

"Texting is serious and has to be dealt with harshly, but employees are entitled to fair process," said Donna Lieberman, of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

There's no doubt that texting behind the wheel is just plain dangerous, and statistics involving city bus drivers prove that the problem involves plenty of repeat offenders.

According to the MTA, their bus drivers have committed 650 cell phone violations over the last 2 years.

Nearly 90 of the drivers were caught twice.

25 of them were caught three times, and five drivers were caught four times.

So far, only 11 have been fired.

Driver Jeremy Philhower had been suspended for texting, but then returned to the job and on his first day back his bus struck and killed a 22-year-old student.

While texting wasn't the cause of the accident, Philhower had been accused in the past of using his phone to post negative comments about passengers while driving.

Meanwhile, on the M79 bus, some drivers had no problem with the new rule.

"I don't mind, I never do that, I turn off my cell phone anyway. Anybody who does it from my point is very stupid," said one bus driver.

The union is now challenging the plan, but it is set to go in effect on January 12th.

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