Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pennsylvania jitney concerns heightened after baby's death

Jitneys drivers are freelance public transportation providers. The un-taxis are affordable, unmetered vehicles used in Pittsburgh and other big, busy cities. Safety rules that apply to other mass transit vehicles and drivers don't cover illegal jitneys, often privately operated by drivers without commercial licenses.

Customers who pay for transportation expect rides in mechanically-sound vehicles. They also assume drivers will obey traffic laws and reach destinations without incident. Licensed, certified and insured bus and taxi drivers are obligated to safeguard passengers. Jitney drivers promise a cheap ride without commercial safety laws to bind them.

Passengers are not the only possible victims of a jitney driver's negligence. Other motorists and pedestrians are also at risk, as jitneys race street to street to find cash-carrying customers.

A jitney was the responsible for the death of a baby in July. The 8-month-old child was sitting in a stroller when she was struck by a falling lamppost hit by a minibus. Investigators said the jitney driver was distracted by a cellphone before the chain reaction crash.

Authorities said the jitney driver had more than a half dozen tickets for traffic violations over two years. Among them were tickets for running stop lights or signs and speeding. The minibus driver was charged with death by auto and reckless and distracted driving.

States are grappling with laws that apply to jitneys. Many lawmakers feel outlawing the practice will disappoint constituents who depend on low-cost, convenient transportation.

Are people accepting a safety risk when they choose to take an accepted, but otherwise illegal, form of transportation? Civil courts may have to decide whether injured customers bear some burden of negligence for jitney accidents.

Safe driving habits are expected among all motorists, not just drivers with specialized training, licenses or certificates. Families of accident victims turn to wrongful death attorneys for representation in liability claims.


Source: 
nj.com, "Jitney industry 'the wild west', says assemblyman during state hearing" Mike Frassinelli, Sep. 23, 2013

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