The MBTA bus driver who lost her job and her driver’s license after she drove her bus off the road, leaving a wheel hanging over the Massachusetts Turnpike, asked a state board Thursday to reinstate her driving privileges. But an attorney argued that someone with 39 driving citations over two decades should not be allowed behind the wheel.
Shanna Shaw was accused of having her cellphone in her hand when the bus careered around a corner and slammed into the guardrail of a Newton overpass on May 18. She initially claimed that a sneeze, rather than cellphone use, led to the accident.
Seven people were injured in the crash. Shaw faces charges of operating to endanger, impeded operation, and obstruction of justice.
Under MBTA regulations, bus, subway, and trolley operators are banned from having a cellphone in their possession while on the job.
Tom Twomey, an attorney who represented the Registry of Motor Vehicles, told the Board of Appeal for the Division of Insurance at Thursday’s hearing that Shaw’s swift license suspension by the Registry was a nonpunitive measure meant to protect the public. He asked the board not to reinstate Shaw’s license because of her history of “unsafe and irresponsible driving behavior.”
He pointed to Shaw’s 39 citations, for which she was found responsible 10 times, and an April accident that resulted in a surcharge of $6,159. A driving record obtained from the state Department of Transportation shows Shaw has been involved in three surchargeable accidents; her last infraction before the April crash was a seat belt violation in 2008.
“We believe from a public safety standpoint that the appellant continues to be an immediate threat,” Twomey said.
MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said Shaw was allowed to operate a bus despite her driving record because her license was not suspended. The Registry does not report driving infractions to the T as long as the driver’s license is active and in good standing.
Shaw’s attorney, Michael Neuner, said at the hearing that Shaw had a pending offer for a job and needed a car to get to her workplace. He also said she needed to drive to a back specialist and run errands for three children, one of whom attends counseling sessions to cope with the death of his father to cancer last year.
Neuner was asked at the hearing if he had any proof that Shaw had been offered a job, but he could not provide any documentation. He denied that Shaw’s driving history made her a public threat.
“There are many things on this driving record, but none of them are serious, significant,” Neuner said.
Shaw did not testify
At a May arraignment in Newton District Court, Shaw was ordered not to operate a motor vehicle. Kim Foster, the appeal board chairwoman, said Thursday she would not override the court’s decision.
Designees from the attorney general’s office and the Registry focused on Shaw’s driving record.
Her attorney argued that Shaw needs a driver’s license in the interim, as court proceedings could take months.
“She cannot be an immediate threat in perpetuity,” said Neuner.
The board is expected to issue a ruling in about 10 days.