Gerard D. James was operating a tour bus when he struck and killed two pedestrians in Washington, D.C. Killed in the crash were Monica A. Carlson, 61, and Cora L. Adams, 85. The two were walking northbound on Seventh Street NW and then began crossing Pennsylvania Avenue.
Police claim that video footage revealed that James was distracted at the time by using his mobile phone. James was charged with two involuntary manslaughter counts and is accused of a “gross deviation” from safe operation of the 2013 Provost Passenger bus. His actions were further described as demonstrating an “extreme risk of death or serious bodily injury.”
Carlson was the mayor of the Alaskan town of Skagway. The women were visiting the city and doing some sightseeing at the time. At the moment of impact, the two were walking within a crosswalk with the proper walking signal in operation. One of the women apparently became lodged below the bus and was then dragged a short distance. Both women were transferred to the local hospital and pronounced dead shortly after.
Inspectors confirmed that the bus had been in good working order and had the headlights illuminated. James is awaiting future proceedings in the Superior Court. An attorney for the defendant expressed his condolences and stated that James was cooperating with the local authorities.
There were no passengers on board the bus at the time. Surveillance footage of the interior of the vehicle allegedly shows that James was using a mobile device prior to the crash. In efforts to grasp the phone, he is shown to have alternated his hands that were grasping the wheel. The collision is audible on the video. James explained that he simply did not see the women crossing at the time of the collision. His driving record was reported as being satisfactory and he also passed drug and alcohol tests after the incident.
Company Driver Policies
The bus is owned by Eyre Bus Service Inc. They are a provider of chartered tours for conventions, the airport, and other services. This massive vehicle is approximately 45-feet long and is rated in excess of 50,000 pounds. The company's website promotes their commitment to overall safety. They maintain TSX motor carrier safety approval and their drivers are rigorously screened and properly trained. Drivers have their driving record checked each year and are subjected to random testing for drugs and alcohol.
Distracted Driving Laws in Washington, D.C.
In 2004, the District passed that Distracted Driving Safety Act, which currently contains some of the following provisions:
- Distracted driving is defined as “inattentive” operation of a motor vehicle that is potentially unsafe. This applies to distractions such as reading, personal grooming, writing, usage of personal electronic devices, and more.
- Violators may be fined $100. This penalty may be waived for first-time offenders who show proof that they have purchased a product that allows for “hands-free” phone usage.
- All usage of mobile devices while driving must be in a “hands-free” mode.
- The Department of Transportation is now publishing an annual report that contains the statistics regarding vehicle accidents where the driver was using a mobile device. This serves as the basis for future legislation to enhance safety.