Afterthoughts: How's My Driving?
Forget these “suspensions pending investigations.” I’d rather see some bad drivers frog-marched out of TheBus’ headquarters.
Someone once called my management style “nurturing and intuitive.” It was a nice compliment. But I think the managers at TheBus might be a little too nurturing. I’m sure you heard about the employee who was caught reading the newspaper while driving TheBus.
After 19 years on the job, the guy was either so bored or so supremely confident that he felt comfy pulling out a newspaper, acting as if he were home on the throne instead of en route from Pearl City to Ala Moana Center.
I didn’t say the driver was “allegedly” reading the newspaper, because there was photographic evidence—a rider shot video of the scene using her cellphone. Also, the bus driver admitted to it, according to reporting by Keoki Kerr, of KITV 4 News. Yet TheBus didn’t fire the driver, instead suspending him for 30 days without pay. In Kerr’s report, sources say that officials don’t normally fire a driver for a first offense.
Remember this headline? From another story by Kerr, in September 2008: “Bus Driver Suspended For Playing Games While Driving.” Video footage shot by a rider shows a driver steering his multi-ton bus while also playing his electronic game. With his right foot up on the dashboard. That enterprising multitasker was suspended for two weeks without pay.
News like this isn’t unique to Hawaii. Last year, New Jersey Transit suspended a driver who took passengers on a scary ride, blowing by stops, barely keeping his eyes open and swerving across Route 22. I also found some nice video footage of a Jersey “Look Ma, No Hands” bus driver steering with his left foot. But maybe that’s how they do it back East.
Hey, how about some walking papers for guys like these? I’m not being vindictive. It’s called acting swiftly and decisively. There’s a huge difference between mistakes, which all of us make; accidents, which sometimes happen despite our best efforts, and total disregard. Inattentive drivers ignore their responsibility to not only a bus filled with people, but to every other driver, vehicle and pedestrian they encounter.
To be fair, TheBus has a good safety record compared to other cities, and, lord knows, to New Jersey. A bus driver there even got in an accident with a train. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fire an occasional bad apple for reckless behavior.
Besides, how boring can driving a bus possibly be? You have 236,000 riders depending on TheBus each weekday on Oahu. There are potholes to dodge, old ladies to avoid, trees not to sideswipe. And that’s on a normal day. Bad days might include a rock slide, a rainy-season monsoon or even the filming of Hawaii Five-O. If this isn’t stimulating enough, by all means, go find another job.
For more of Wagner’s writing, see her “Guilty Pleasures” blog at honolulumagazine.com.