Cops powerless unless they catch driver in the act

A TTC driver is seen here texting on a Toronto bus. (Photo taken by Mike Schmitz)

A TTC driver is seen here texting on a Toronto bus. (Photo taken by Mike Schmitz)

Rob Lamberti, Don Peat and Antonella Artuso, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:52 AM ET

TORONTO — Police won't act on the photo that captured a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) bus driver apparently texting while driving because a cop didn't see the alleged offence.

The Ontario Highway Traffic Act makes it illegal to talk, text, type, dial or e-mail using hand-held cellphones and other hand-held devices while behind the wheel.

If caught, a motorist could be fined $155.

Got a photo of a texting driver? Send it to us

Toronto traffic Const. Hugh Smith said as far as the police force is concerned, the case will remain an internal disciplinary matter for the TTC.

For a provincial offence, the police officer has to witness the infraction, Smith said.

He said the photographer took the issue to where it belongs, with the transit authority.

Unlike with red light cameras, where images are taken and stored in controlled ways governed by provincial legislation, "as police, I can't take that (iPhone) picture at face value and proceed with it," he said.

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak said if the allegation is true, it's likely grounds to fire the bus driver.

"I expect we'll see from Mayor (Rob) Ford and Councillor (Karen) Stintz strong reaction to something that is against the law, endangered passengers and is likely, if true, a firing offence," Hudak said Friday, after the Toronto Sun's front page pictured a driver texting while behind the wheel of a bus.

The public transit system should run for the benefit of the paying customers and taxpayers, Hudak said.

Meanwhile, TTC spokesman Brad Ross urged riders to call the TTC and report when they have concerns about employees breaking the rules, rather than taking a photo or shooting a video of the alleged infraction.

Ross said the commission has already identified the driver, who could face a range of discipline including being fired.

Asked if the driver was pulled off his route Friday, Ross simply said, "he's not working today."

"What we don't want to see happen is people getting on board vehicles with their cameras rolling, taking pictures. It doesn't help in our efforts to improve customer service," Ross told QMI Agency. "We're doing a lot of hard work on customer service, this incident of course is not helpful and we recognize that and are taking action to deal with it."

"We do investigate and we do deal with these matters when they come to our attention," he added. "We don't require people to send us pictures … we don't want this game of gotcha to be played out on the TTC.

"Everybody wants the TTC to improve, nobody more so than the TTC itself. We need to move forward to improve customer service and when incidents happen, we need the public to let us know so we can deal with it."

Even before the provincial law came into effect, the TTC forbade texting or talking on a cellphone while driving.

"Safety is priority No. 1 at the TTC and the action we take through the disciplinary process will be swift and commensurate with the seriousness with which we view this," he said.

The photo surfaces during an awkward time for the TTC.

Commissioners are in the midst of a debate over cutting service on 48 low-ridership bus routes.

They just wrapped up four nights of information sessions about the cuts and meet next week to make a decision.

Wednesday's meeting will also include a staff briefing on their response to last year's blue ribbon panel on customer service.

That panel was prompted after a rider, frustrated by a recent 25 cent fare hike, snapped a photo of a sleeping TTC collector. The photo went viral and unleashed a firestorm of controversy on the transit authority and led to other riders taking several photos and videos of TTC employees behaving badly.


Photos