Cell Phone Blamed For Bus Crash

Just one day after federal hearings on the dangers of drivers distracted by cell phones and other high tech devices, authorities pointed to cell phone use as a factor in a dramatic collision in downtown Kansas City.

Police say a rider was thrown from a bus after it was hit by another vehicle whose driver ran a red light while retrieving her ringing cell phone. Three other people were also hurt in the Wednesday afternoon wreck.

The injured bus passenger was thrown into a steel hand rail and partition, ripping the rail from the bus floor. She then crashed through the windshield and landed on the street. She was hospitalized in fair condition.

Police say the driver of the car told officers that she bent over to pick up a ringing cell phone and sat up to find she was running a red light. Police say she also told them that once she realized what was happening, there was no time to stop.

The car struck the front doors of the eastbound bus, sending it careening into a concrete pillar. That impact sent the front seat passenger through the window.

The car spun around and struck the bus again in the back, before crashing into another concrete pillar.

The bus driver and two other passengers were hospitalized with minor injuries. The car's driver declined medical treatment.

Police are investigating and did not immediately issue any traffic citations. Officials say the damage to the bus is estimated at about $20,000.

A 1997 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found talking on a phone while driving quadrupled the risk of an accident and was almost as dangerous as being drunk behind the wheel.

Cell phone use while driving has been prohibited in a number of localities across the country, and a similar ban died in the Missouri legislature earlier this year.

© 2000, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed