MBTA driver’s cellphone at issue in Newton bus accident
The driver of a bus that crashed in Newton Sunday has been cited by MBTA Transit Police for speeding, operating to endanger, and impeded operation, the MBTA said Monday, citations that may stem, in part, from the driver’s allegedly having a cellphone on the job, in violation of T rules.
The driver, a 43-year-old woman who has worked for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority since 1996, was also charged with obstruction of justice in Newton District Court, accused of intentionally misleading investigators after the crash, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in a statement. She is scheduled to be arraigned next week, Pesaturo said.
The crash on Sunday morning left a Route 57 bus dangling dramatically above the Massachusetts Turnpike, after it smashed through a guardrail on the Washington Street overpass. The driver and seven passengers were hospitalized with a variety of injuries, none of which were considered life-threatening.
Pesaturo said neither the investigation into the crash nor the disciplinary process has been completed. The bus involved in Sunday’s crash was equipped with a surveillance camera, which may help investigators determine what went wrong and whether the driver was using her phone before or during the crash, Pesaturo said.
An official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the incident said that the driver had a cellphone in her possession at the time of the crash, a violation of T rules that ban operators of buses, trolleys, and subway cars from having a cellphone with them while on duty.
The official identified the driver as Shanna S. Shaw. A person who picked up at a phone number listed for Shaw identified himself as a relative and said that Shaw was not available to speak, but was fine and recovering from the crash.
According to records from the Registry of Motor Vehicles, Shaw was involved in a crash in her personal vehicle in Dorchester in April and was found more than 50 percent at fault. She was also found at fault in crashes in 2003 and 1994. Between 1994 and 2008, Shaw incurred citations for speeding, two seat-belt violations, failure to stop, and improper passing.
According to the T’s policy on cellphones, possession of a cellphone results in a 10-day suspension for a first violation and firing after a second violation.
If an operator uses a cellphone while driving, the driver receives a 30-day suspension and a recommendation for termination.
The T’s policy against operators using or possessing a cellphone on the job stems from a 2009 crash on the Green Line, in which 49 people were injured and three trolleys were destroyed. Investigators later determined that operator Aiden Quinn failed to notice warnings on the signal system as he accelerated from Government Center to Park Street stations because he was texting his girlfriend.
Since the rule was adopted, 29 bus drivers have been disciplined for breaking it. Fourteen were fired.
Drivers have been suspended and fired for using a cellphone outside the bus; talking on a cellphone while driving without passengers; and texting while operating a forklift at a bus yard.
One bus driver was fired after less than a week on the job after he was caught texting during a training session. Another bus driver made an unauthorized stop, then borrowed a passenger’s cellphone to make a call while the bus was parked.