VIA bus driver reading book at stoplights caught on camera, disciplined

This isn't first time VIA driver caught driving while distracted

SAN ANTONIO – A VIA bus driver is facing disciplinary action after he was caught reading a book at stoplights in September. The couple who reported it is hoping to send a message to other bus drivers. KSAT found out this isn't the first time a driver has been caught driving while distracted.

The incident happened at a busy West Side intersection during rush hour. The VIA bus driver stopped at the light caught up on some light reading.

"I was coming down Tezel, turning onto Culebra here, when I saw the bus driver kind of swerving into our lane. I realized later on down Tezel that he was reading a book," Brian Sperl said.

Sperl and his wife, Michelle, were in the car right next to the bus at the light.

"I really was concerned because I had two kids in the car at the time," Michelle Sperl said.

Michelle Sperl was sitting in the passenger's seat, so she took out her phone and snapped a photo, showing the book in the driver's lap as he looked down at it. Then the couple reported what they saw to VIA.

As VIA looked into the situation, so did KSAT. Video showed that the driver was only reading the book while the bus was stopped, but he did it more than once. The hour-long video showed him reading the book three times, only putting it away once the light turned green.

"We would rather their attention span and focus be on the goings on inside the vehicle, what's around the vehicle," said Tremell Brown, VIA'S vice president for safety, training and system security.

Brown said the driver did break VIA's distracted driving rules.  As discipline, he was sent to coaching and counseling.

In the past two years, three other drivers have faced disciplinary action for being distracted while driving, according to information disclosed by VIA.

When asked if he thought three was a lot, Brown said, "We transport a little over 40 million trips per year. An overwhelming majority of those trips happen without incident, but I don't believe that it's something we should be lax about. We take them very seriously, because although the number [of incidents] may not be that great, it's still something we'd like to hone in on and focus on improving."

VIA has almost 1,200 bus drivers, or operators, who are all trained extensively before they're allowed to drive passengers on buses. That training includes distracted driving rules.


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