An Iowa City bus driver accused of leaving the scene of an injury accident last week has a history of driving violations that should have earned him a “poor” rating on his 2004 job application and thus disqualified him from employment with the city.
Jamar D. Collins, 35, of Cedar Rapids, was arrested Monday after police said he caused a motorcyclist to crash on Sept. 11 near the intersection of Upland Avenue and Court Street and then left the scene without contacting the driver or checking on his injuries.
Collins, according to Iowa City personnel administrator Karen Jennings, was hired in October 2004 to be a full-time bus driver, and he was still employed as of Tuesday with a salary of $47,424.
The city’s hiring policy requires a check of applicants’ motor vehicle records going back three years. Depending on the number and type of violations, applicants are given ratings of “clear,” “acceptable,” “borderline,” or “poor.”
“No new driver will be hired with a ‘borderline’ or ‘poor’ (motor vehicle record),” according the city’s motor vehicle policy that applies to every position with driving duties, including employees assigned to drive city vehicles and those who drive personal cars while at work.
According to The Gazette’s review of online court records, Collins has 12 driving-related convictions in Iowa dating back to 1994. The offenses appear to be mostly minor and include failure to have a valid license, speeding, failure to obey a traffic control device, and unsafe entry onto a sidewalk or roadway.
When Collins was hired by Iowa City in 2004, he had racked up 11 violations, including four in the three years prior to his employment with the city.
Collins was convicted of operation of a motor vehicle with an expired license in January 2003, speeding above 55 mph in December of 2003, failure to obey a traffic control device in September 2004 and failure to comply with safety regulations and rules in September 2004, according to online court records.
According to the city’s hiring criteria, anyone with four minor driving violations within the past three years should earn a “poor” rating and not be hired.
It’s unclear what information about Collins’ driving history was available to the city at the time he was hired. Jennings said she would have to go back and review Collins file to find out, and the file wasn’t immediately available on Tuesday.
Jennings didn’t have any comments on Collins’ case Tuesday, but she said the city screens all prospective employees and reviews their driving records before offering a job. The city also reviews driving records of its employees on an annual basis to make sure they continue to qualify for employment.
Chris O’Brien, director of the city’s transportation services, said he can’t comment on Collins’ hiring because it’s a personnel matter. He said his department is conducting its own investigation of what happened Sept. 11 when Collins is accused of causing an accident and then leaving the scene.
According to an Iowa City police complaint, Collins was driving a city transit bus about 2:30 p.m. near the intersection of Upland Avenue and Court Street, where a motorcycle was approaching, according to a criminal complaint.
As Collins neared the junction, according to police, he’s accused of failing to fully obey a stop sign while also failing to yield right-of-way as he turned onto Court Street. Collins turned in front of the motorcycle that was headed toward the intersection on Court Street, police reported.
“The motorcycle driver attempted evasive maneuvers to avoid colliding into the transit bus but lost control and crashed,” an officer reported.
Collins is accused of stopping the bus briefly to watch as the approaching motorcycle crashed, according to the complaint. He then drove away and left the scene of the accident without contacting the motorcyclist or checking on his injuries, police reported.
The motorcyclist’s injuries were minor, according to police. A brief summary of the police call indicates the driver “said he is fine but the bus drove off.” The driver complained of road rash but refused to be taken by ambulance to the hospital, according to the report.
Collins didn’t call police about the crash, and he also failed to tell his transit supervisors, according to the complaint.
Witness accounts and video recordings corroborated the motorcyclist’s account of what happened. He was booked and released from the Johnson County Jail.
Collins couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Brian McClatchey, Cambus manager for the University of Iowa, said the university has similar hiring policies to the city.
“You cannot have more than two moving violations, including an at-fault accident, within the last three years,” McClatchey said. “If you have three moving violations, you are not eligible to operate a UI vehicle.”
Because all of the Cambus drivers are students, McClatchey said the UI does comprehensive driving record checks in other states and in other countries. He said it would be difficult for an applicant to land a job with more than the allowed number of violations.
“I’m not sure how they would slip through the cracks,” he said. “We have to get approval from the UI risk management and insurance office, and they have their way of checking.”