By Rebecca Harshbarger
Credit: NY Post
In a case of recklessness that goes beyond texting while driving, a bus operator was caught Saturday reading and marking up printouts while maneuvering his packed vehicle with no hands.
“I don’t know what kind of pressure he’s under to stay on schedule, but it can’t be more important than not crashing the bus,” said a disgusted commuter, Kristine Rios, 26, of Richmond Hill.
Another woman riding the bus recorded the dangerous driver on her cellphone for nearly 10 minutes after boarding his shuttle bus at 80th Street and Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park at about 6:18 p.m. Saturday.
The woman said she sat in the front of the standing-room-only bus, which replaced a portion of the A train undergoing maintenance, and quickly noticed that the operator kept looking down and using a yellow marker to highlight papers in his hand — while driving.
A transit source said it appeared that the papers were the bus’ timetable and the driver was apparently checking it repeatedly to make sure he was hitting his stops on schedule.
“I was in shock for the first few minutes, thinking he would stop it, but it went on for the whole bus ride,” said the woman who recorded it all.
Her disturbing video shows the driver repeatedly looking down at his papers — steering with his wrists and forearms.
The driver continued to be extremely distracted the whole time the woman was aboard, for about 10 minutes and four stops, she said. She got off at 111th Street and Liberty Avenue.
“I couldn’t believe he was doing it for this long,” she said.
“I was in shock, with the amount of deaths by buses. It was worse before I got the camera out.’’
There were at least seven pedestrian deaths in MTA bus crashes last year, down slightly from 2013.
“He jeopardized the lives of everyone on that bus and anyone on the street,’’ the woman said.
The MTA said that “bus operators are expected to have their full attention on safe operations at all times.’’
The agency said the driver has been removed from passenger service pending an investigation. It declined to disclose his name to The Post, thereby depriving him of the chance to tell his side of the story.
Sources said the driver could undergo retraining or even face termination, depending on his work history and what the MTA learns in its investigation.
The free shuttle service was provided while weekend track work on the A line was going on. There were no A trains between Ozone Park-Lefferts Boulevard and Rockaway Boulevard between 11:45 p.m. Friday and 5 a.m. Monday.
As part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan to end traffic deaths, the MTA has been giving more training to drivers and looking at new technologies that can prevent crashes.