According to police records, nearly 200 MTA bus drivers were caught talking and texting on cell phones, eating, and reading behind the wheel while transporting passengers throughout the city. The drivers received summonses, and were either reprimanded, suspended, or dismissed, depending on their previous safety record, MTA officials said.
The announcement was made at the 2010 Distracted Driving summit on September 21 in Washington D.C., part of an ongoing effort spearheaded by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to drive down the number of people killed and injured on American roads and interstates in distracted driving incidents.
Last year, 5,500 people were killed in distracted driving incidents on U.S. roads and highways. Attempting to send and receive text messages on cell phones is the deadliest form of distracted driving under fire by the DOT and its constituent agencies. Researchers have found that people who text while driving are 23 times more likely to crash than non-texting drivers. The activity is so deadly because it involves three basic types of distraction: visual, manual, and cognitive. The depleted attention and slowed reactions of people texting while driving are actually worse than those exhibited by drunk drivers.
MTA spokesman Charles Seaton told the New York Post that “The MTA views this as a very serious safety concern and we employ several methods of policing cellphone use behind the wheel.” The methods include dispatching MTA officials to observe drivers and follow up on passenger complaints.
Secretary LaHood announced new federal rules at the summit, designed to fight what he considers to be a national “epidemic” of texting and driving. “Rules banning commercial bus and truck drivers from texting on the job and restricting train operators from using cellphones and other electronic devices while in the driver’s seat have been posted today,” LaHood said.