JTA driver cited in Monday's crash with Amtrak train

Driver involved in more than dozen accidents in her 20 years with JTA

By Kelly Wiley - I-TEAM reporter, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Transportation Authority bus driver involved in Monday's crash with an Amtrak train was cited with the accident, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

The driver, Carolyn Simmons, got a ticket for failure to obey a traffic control device at a railroad crossing. 

Simmons was the only person injured in the crash and was treated and released from a hospital Monday. The JTA placed her on a "hold-off" status without pay until it is determined if she violated safety guidelines. 

The I-TEAM has learned that Simmons has been involved in more than a dozen crashes in her 20-year career with JTA. Her personnel file reflects rule violations dating back to 2000 and in 2011, supervisors suspended Simmons for 15 days for getting into three preventable collisions or incidents within two years.

After a 2006 incident, supervisors wrote “this is the operator's eighth accident" since she started. 

The records show Simmons was not at fault for most of the crashes listed in her file, but many of them were listed as preventable.

The JTA warned the driver three times in 2003-04 that she was close to a suspension over attendance issues. In 2012, she was pulled off driving because of missing too many days of work, but the union asked that she be compensated for her time off.

Monday's crash with the train was the latest of four incidents involving JTA buses in the past three weeks. The first incident happened in early June when 50-year-old Jeanie Rozar became entangled as she got off a bus in Mayport, was run over by the vehicle and died.

JTA also said all the incidents are under investigation. It is also re-evaluating policies about railroad crossings, particularly those with unique characteristics, such as the one on McDuff Avenue, to determine what changes may need to be made. 

Despite the recent incidents, frequent bus riders asked Tuesday by News4Jax still have confidence in the JTA drivers.

"I have been here, riding the bus for four years safely," Victoria Tappin said.

"The ones that I have been on have all been pretty good, but anything can happen, unfortunately," Beth O’Keefe said.

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