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Bus driver on phone while driving

(KOTA)
Published: Oct. 11, 2018 at 8:40 PM CDT
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A Sturgis bus company is in hot water after a passenger recorded the driver on her phone while operating the bus. The passenger says it's dangerous, distracted driving, but the bus manager says what the driver did wasn't illegal.

In the 12 second clip taken from inside one of the buses operated by Da Bus company in Sturgis, a passenger captures the driver on her phone.

The incident happened the night of Sept. 29.

"We were all kind of surprised and didn't even know what to say at first and then we just said, hey get off the phone, you're driving a lot of us right now." said passenger Blayne Olson. "And she actually kind of ignored us."

In the video you can hear the driver say she is looking for a song that was requested by another passenger. Operations manager Steve Barry says while he doesn't agree with her actions, she didn't do anything illegal.

"Clearly in the video was scrolling through music for our customer who was on the bus requesting a song," Barry said. "By South Dakota law that is appropriate."

In South Dakota texting and driving is against the law, but using your phone for other purposes isn't, but that isn't very reassuring for Olson.

"That's still dangerous. You're still looking at your phone," Olson said.

The bus was transporting a wedding party, which made it safely to its destination.

"There were dozens of people on this bus and with the tragedy in New York state 20 people were involved, so you can imagine how bad this would have been if it was our bus that had careened off the edge of the road in the middle of the black hills." Olson said.

"Truly our policy is no texting while driving," Barry said. "We're hands free all the time. I don't get on the bus without my blue tooth and I push that with all my drivers also."

We showed the video to Deputy Matthew Scharn of the Pennington County Sheriff's Office. Who said it may not be a texting offense but it could still merit a citation.

"It's against the law," Sharn said. "When you see something against the law make a stop, address the issue and go from there. Every situation is different but I think with the situation at hand - night time, driving that speed - you know, you have a car load of people. Yeah, I think that's absolutely a stop. You have precious cargo."

Barry says he has operated the buses for 19 years without an injury. Still, he see this as a learning opportunity.

"There will be changes," Olson said. "I don't think it could be acceptable to be scrolling through your music like that. I don't think it was very long but still I just don't like that idea."

Which is exactly what Olson hoped would happen when he reported the driver to the company.

"After seeing the story about what happened in New York, my conscience wasn't really going to let me just drop it," Olson said.

Deputy Scharn said he wouldn't be able to charge the driver with texting and driving but he would issue a citation for careless driving.

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