WATCH: NJ Transit driver caught on video texting behind the wheel
NEWARK — On the same day that Gov. Phil Murphy announced a top-to-bottom audit of NJ Transit, a bus driver was caught on video texting with both hands.
The driver was on the 553 line heading from from Atlantic City to Upper Deerfield/Cumberland County College on Monday when rider Rider Sean Michael, 23, of Atlantic City, said he noticed the bus began to sway from left to right.
The video shows the driver texting with one hand under the steering wheel. The driver then brings the phone up to eye level and continues to text while steering the bus with his pinky.
"I was the only passenger in the front part of the bus. All the other passengers were in the middle and back so they had no idea what was going on," Michael said. "I can't believe this. Is this man really texting right now? I know this isn't OK for New Jersey Transit drivers."
Michael was especially sensitive to his surroundings on the bus because he said he almost died in a school bus crash on the Garden State Parkway six years ago. He said the two left rear wheels came off the bus carrying 35 students.
"We could have flipped over but the angels were with us. We crashed into the woods before going over the overpass. I developed PTSD for that accident," he said.
Michael's mind went back to that incident and he felt his blood pressure and anxiety rise. He quickly decided his best course of action was to record the driver and to not say anything because he felt it would be inappropriate to raise his voice at at someone while they were driving.
"My whole goal was for his supervisor to see it and tell him not to do it again. He doesn't know how serious and detrimental that could be.," Michael said. He was also concerned that because the route travels through country roads, an animal could jump out in front of the bus.
The driver texted for about three minutes, according to Michael.
NJ Transit said it had identified the bus operator from the video and immediately removed him from service.
"NJ Transit will take swift and appropriate action upon the completion of a thorough investigation. The safety of our customers, employees and the general public continues to be the top priority of NJ Transit," an agency spokesman said.
Murphy on Monday signed an executive order for a "comprehensive, strategic, financial, and operational audit" of NJ Transit, which he hopes will be a first step in fixing the troubled agency.
"The public deserves a true accounting for how this once-model agency has fallen so far so fast. Our goal must be a new NJ Transit that will begin with a new culture and its management, and a new commitment to getting this system right," Murphy said.
The audit will include a critical review of NJ Transit's funding, leadership structure, personal hiring, and customer service. It will also examine NJ Transit's relationship with Amtrak.
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