Reading and Driving Don’t Mix

I know it might seem I pick on TriMet, but I assure you that I do not go looking for reasons to criticize or ridicule our local transit agency. The sad truth is I don’t have to look for reasons because the reasons are in our faces every day. The latest snafu concerns a TriMet driver who allegedly read his Kindle e-book while driving. Let me add that he was driving on the freeway around some generally hazardous curves, and oh yes, it was raining. The situation was surreptitiously videotaped by a passenger. The video ended up on the Internet and went viral.

I have watched the video (and you can, too, by following the link to this article) and am not sure what to think. The Kindle is clearly on and rests on the dashboard, just to the left of the driver’s steering wheel. You can see the driver reach over and push a button the Kindle, perhaps to forward to the next page. I guess the reason I am willing to be somewhat open minded about whether he’s actually reading the Kindle or not is because the driver’s face is at least a couple feet from the Kindle screen, and I don’t know if his eyesight could be good enough that he could actually read the text on the screen.

Regardless of whether or not the driver is actually reading while driving, it is clear that the device is on and that he is engaged with it in some way. TriMet policy bars its drivers from using electronic devices while on the job, but the agency hasn’t done much to enforce this policy. According to this article in the Oregonian, over the course of two years TriMet received more than 500 complaints about drivers using electronic devices while driving, yet no disciplinary action was taken (okay, so two drivers received written warnings). Whatever happened to “safety first”?

In the end, the Kindle-reading driver was terminated from TriMet. Don’t start applauding yet, though. The same driver had been fired once before from TriMet in 2006 and had been suspended earlier in the summer for using his cell phone while driving. Seriously.