Exclusive: Drivers who transport patients accused of texting behind the wheel

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Patient says her drivers were texting behind wheel
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Jim Hoffer has a 7 On Your Side Investigates report.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- It's illegal to text or talk on a hand-held phone while driving in New Jersey, But one Medicaid patient says it kept occurring when she was transported to her medical appointments.

She became so concerned for her safety, she started documenting the unsafe driving with her cell phone.

A woman seen talking on the phone is a driver responsible for safely transporting Medicaid patients to their doctors' appointments.

Jim Hoffer; "You worry about your safety?"

Patient: "Yes."

Jim Hoffer: "So they ignore you when you tell them to stop."

Patient: "Hmm, that's why I record it because they don't listen to me."

This Medicaid patient reached out to us after experiencing drivers repeatedly texting or talking on the phone while driving her to a medical appointment. She requested that we not identify her.

"If you gotta go to the doctor, they supposed to not text, not talk, they're supposed to just take you straight to the doctor, concentrating, be safe, and come back home safely. Not texting and talking," the patient said.

She's documented at least five medical transport drivers texting or talking on their phones, some of them clearly travelling at highway speeds. We showed the video clips to an expert on distracted driving at New Jersey's Triple A.

"Those drivers were clearly not following the law, they were putting themselves and everyone they are sharing the road with in jeopardy," said Cathleen Lewis.

The drivers all work for companies that contract with a huge transportation broker called Logisticare located in New Brunswick.

The state pays Logisticare about $165 million a year to transport some of New jersey's poorest and sickest patients safely to their doctors.

In a statement to us, the company says "Logisticare has zero tolerance for texting and talking while driving", adding that they "take immediate action when we have evidence that a driver violated this policy, including suspension, re-training or dismissal."

"I don't want nothing to happen to me because of a stupid driver be driving, talking," said the patient. "I be prayin in my head, please God don't let nothin happen to me."

She says she has filed numerous complaints about the texting but it still keeps happening. Her fear is that she or some other patient will end up in a serious accident.

"They be doin that to other people. But I guess other people don't do nothing about it, somebody has to. For my safety and others," the patient said.

LogistiCare says 99 percent of the millions of trips they contract occur without any complaints. The state of New Jersey, in an attempt to cut down on phone communication with dispatchers, is requiring all Logisticare contractors to have G-P-S in all cars.


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