YouTube Eyes Wide Shut, Please…

An STO representative is incensed and wants regulations to change to forbid passengers on the Quebec public bus system from filming video while on their buses after an STO driver became a YouTube sensation when a rider recorded him steering with his knees and filling out paperwork while driving. The driver was reprimanded, though not fired, but STO wants to stop passengers from filming and riding because they feel it is inappropriate. Apparently, the driver’s privacy has been infringed.

If he had pancaked a SmartCar while filling out his paperwork and jockeying several tons of bus with his knees, I wonder if his privacy would be as big a concern to STO?

It’s a perfectly valid point that the proliferation of handheld video recording devices and the ubiquity of YouTube and other online video posting sites has made personal privacy a difficult thing. I could walk down the street and capture video of dozens of people and have the clip on the net within minutes without any regard for their privacy concerns. STO could have alluded to the fact that allowing passengers to use video devices on their buses leaves other passengers at risk of privacy infingement as well; some dude could decide to take pictures of the hot university student across the aisle from him, for instance, or embarassing video of some commuter sleeping and drooling on the way home.

However, the fact that the driver’s privacy rights have been infringed are massively overshadowed by the fact that the video proves that the driver was reckless and negligent. Apparently, he had been on his cell phone before the video started. So, the driver was putting the safety of his passengers at risk and breaking a number of laws while doing it. If not for that video, I bet the complaint received by the STO about this driver would have been handled a lot differently and with a lot less impact.

Video is a leveller. While things can be carefully filmed to frame the subject out of context, for the most part having a video of something is pretty solid proof of something having occurred. No more “he said she said,” just look at the screen and see what really happened. This incident would no doubt have been a “he said she said” scenario, but simply isn’t because of the video on YouTube.

The driver apparently can’t be charged by the police because “he wasn’t using an electronic device” in the video, and there isn’t a law against doing paperwork while driving. Given all the attention given to driver distraction, you would hope this is one loophole that gets filled in a hurry.

The fact that the driver hasn’t been fired is, no doubt, related to the fact that there is a transit union protecting drivers. Firing the driver, despite the very obvious proof of his negligence, is probably something that the union would make very messy for STO. In case I needed another, this is yet one more reason why I despise unions. We don’t even know how the driver will be reprimanded, so the possibility that gross negligence that, luckily, didn’t result in injury or death was made obvious is rewarded with a slap on the wrist is quite likely. It’s all speculation, really, but the one thing that we can fairly safely say is that the most dangerous and risky thing that occurred in this situation was not the use of a cell phone and YouTube.

Makes me happy I don’t ride the bus. Makes me afraid every time I see one around me.

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