Friday, November 6, 2009

Snacking + Texting + Driving = ?

Pretty sure this is not supposed to be standard operating procedure, but then again ...

From reader @mazzie:

At about 5:50 p.m.yesterday, I boarded an S2 bus at 16th and U Streets, headed south to Federal Triangle. As I touched my farecard to the reader, I noticed the unmistakable glow of a cell phone in the driver's hand and looked down to see that he seemed to be typing a text message.

Instead of heading to the back of the bus, which I usually do, I decided to sit on the bench across from the driver to see if I could get a picture.

I was in awe.

I must have been obvious in my shock and my sudden decision to sit down and whip out my own phone, because the driver glanced at me and moved the cell phone from chest level to his lap. He held it there with the other hand on the wheel as he pulled away from the curb.

I was texting and trying to get a good shot when the bus stopped suddenly, and I lurched sideways. I looked up to see we were at the intersection of 16th and T, the light was green, and there was nothing in front of us. The driver was looking at his phone.

As he began to move again, he tucked the phone into his shirt pocket, under his vest. I finished the text message I was writing, thinking the incident was over.

Then I heard rustling from the driver's direction, and looked up to see that he didn't have either hand on the wheel.

Instead, he was trying to open a bag of sunflower seeds.

As he was driving down 16th Street during rush hour with several passengers on the bus, he had both hands on the bag, which he finally used his teeth to tear open.

Again, I was in awe.

As we continued down 16th Street, the driver held the bag in his left hand and took seeds from it in his right hand, steering the bus with his wrists and forearms.

After I got off the bus, I seriously considered filing a report with the police, as I am pretty sure operating a vehicle while texting is not only against WMATA policy, but against the law in DC.

The truth is, though, I don't want the driver arrested or charged or fined. And I don't want to tie up the resources of my local MPD district office. I don't even want him to lose his job.

I do, however, want him -- as well as all other operators, staff, union leaders and board members of WMATA -- to act as though they take the safety of their customers seriously.

Other items:
Do you think WMATA drivers deserve a >9% raise over three years? (WMATA)
Examiner's take
Orange, Blue and Yellow to suck this weekend (WMATA)


Anonymous said...

So, did you take down the bus number, or the time you were on the bus, and report it on WMATA's website? I guess not since you "don't want the driver fired".

Mazzie said...

I do have the bus number. Also, f you look at the post, you'll see the time is in the first sentence.
I considered filing a report with WMATA, but I've done that before and the result was unsatisfactory.

Ed said...

Wait, you "don't want the driver arrested or charged or fined"?

Why the hell not? The driver should be arrested, charged and fined. That is a serious breach not only of Metro policy, but of D.C. law. And of basic safety.

So if this asshat had crashed and you were in hospital for weeks on end, would you feel differently?

Mazzie said...

@Ed you're right.

I just filed the complaint with WMATA.


Anonymous said...

Give that man a RAISE!

Anonymous said...

Make sure you get the picture next time. Unless you plan to go to an arbitration hearing, the driver will get away with it.

Brian said...

Have to agree with the others- the sunflower seed thing is dumb, but the texting thing, that's been a big issue this year for WMATA, so you know he's been told not to do anything like that. If he's willing to risk it anyway for whatever conversation he's having, he deserves to lose his job if he gets caught.

Anonymous said...

One the union gets involved, nothing, and I mean nothing, will happen to this guy. Metro is a jobs program.

Anonymous said...

Consider this incident in light of Metro employees criminal union demanding lump sum payments and 9% pay raises for their members. This guy is probably a typical union member, notice his disregard for his life, his job, lives of his passengers, and the lives of other commuters. But boy, he just LOVES those sunflower seeds! I bet he was tweeting about how good they were going to taste.

WMATA said...

Metro does care about customer safety which is why we have policies in place to handle situations such as this.

The internet is a great way for us to discuss issues and policies directly with customers. We welcome that, and we also welcome direct feedback about your Metro experience via our customer service line.

Anytime you have a complaint about your Metro experience, please let US know about it directly. That way we can document it, investigate the complaint and come to a resolution. We make that easy enough to do by internet ( ) and telephone and postal mail (

We want to provide exceptional service, and you can help us do that by reporting issues to us via the customer service line. When there is a formal record, we can identify trends and put fixes in place. Please help us as by providing as much information about the problem as you are comfortable with and telling us directly when you find something wrong.


Anonymous said...

@WMATA - Like the time I complained about red Line workers drinking Starbucks on the train. That hasn't stopped so you ignored my complaint AND did nothing about the double standard between employees vs. passenger treatment.

Fire Catoe, Fire the Board, Build a Third Track.

Anonymous said...

Call the cops. If nothing else, perhaps the cops will contact Metro who will contact that union and the concept of "lawsuit for injury" might come to mind. (Not much else anyone can do. I'd be scared to confront the driver - he might start arguing with me and forget to watch the road...)

Steve Jones said...

Come on, this has to be made up.

Some people (i.e. lots of people on this blog) have nothing better to do,

Let's watch you at work (if you even work??) Do you work 100% of the time and follow every rule?

I agree with lots of things on this blog but these posts are out of hand. And I don't believe this one for one minute.

Anonymous said...

I'd find this a lot easier to beleive if WMATA had ever responded to one of my complaints or customer service comments with anything other than a form email.

And by the way, how many bus drivers have been fired for texting or otherwise distracted and unsafe driving in the last year and what precentage of them ended up being reinstated following union intervention?

NYer said...

I agree with what everyone said about WMATA. Stop faking that you care and reply to every e-mail you get about serious issues.

Your Web site promises respones, but I'm still waiting since January for a serious issue I expriencing.

I now live in NY and when I come down, I rent a car instead of relying on your excuse for a system.

Kara said...

As other commenters have said, maybe more people would be willing to come to you first *if* you had a better record of addressing issues?

I once had a door open on a train when it pulled into my stop ... then the doors immediately shut as soon as they were opened. My head was caught in them and the people on the platform could not believe what they had just witnessed. After they ran to my aid and got me unstuck (suprised there was not a 'PLEASE CLEAR THE DOORS' announcement) I dutifully filed a report on your site. The line, the time, the date, the stop ... pretty much everything you would need to determine who was operating the train. Ok, not the car # but I think you might understand that was not forefront in my brain after you had just tried to kill me (1/2 second later and it would have been my neck).

After more than a year of 'we are investigating the incident' I finally gave up on ever hearing from you. I still have yet to hear a response.

Anonymous said...

Kara, I am in your boat. I wrote Metro VERY recently about the door shutting on my ankle, not once but twice. There was NO warning chimes. I got an email back a week later reminding me about the chimes as a warning. The reply back address included in the text of the email bounced back when I replied - access denied.

I am a VERY literate webhead so there is no way I misunderstoond the cryptic bounce back message.

As for the disbeliever who posted earlier - keep disbelieving and be SURE to cross at a crosswalk with the crosslight so that you, too, can dive for your life!

It may sound way too much to be realistic but trust me - it is all very real I've witnessed too much myself to no longer deny reality. A very sad reality.

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