RIPTA driver facing discipline for using phone behind the wheel

Screen shot of video taken by Joyce Verado

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A RIPTA driver is facing disciplinary action after an Eyewitness News viewer tipped off Target 12 that he was using his cell phone while behind the wheel – and she caught it all on camera.

Joyce Verado said she was concerned for her and other riders’ safety because the driver was talking and texting for miles.

“He’s literally on the phone driving with one hand,” Joyce Verado recalled.

So Verado took out her phone and starting shooting video.

“He’s not paying attention! He’s literally not paying attention to what he’s doing,” she said, describing what she could see in the rear-view mirror.

The incident happened on the Route 54 bus from Providence to Woonsocket.

“I really was worried for myself and my fellow passengers,” Verado added.

After learning this, Target 12 called the agency to get some answers. James Tierney, RIPTA’s executive director of operations and safety, declined to identify the driver but confirmed he’ll be punished.

“The bus operator that was the subject of this complaint admitted to the violation and will be appropriately disciplined,” he said. “Safety is always our priority.”

Since it’s a personnel matter, Tierney could not comment on whether the driver has a track record of any other violations of crashes.

Verano said she’s relieved that the issue is being addressed.

“Every time you step on a bus, you put your life in that driver’s hands,” she said.

Speaking in general terms, Tierney told Target 12 that discipline for bus drivers talking or texting behind the wheel can include suspension.