A 24-year-old Ontario woman who has “never driven a day” in her life is being hailed a hero for taking control of a public transit bus after the driver became unconscious.
Jessica Lower said she was on her way to her three-year-old son’s birthday party in Woodstock, Ont. around 1:40 p.m. on Saturday when she heard a beep.
The bus was stopped at a red light but Lower couldn’t see the driver’s reflection when she looked in the rear-view mirror.
Lower said the driver, a 60-year-old woman according to police, was in the midst of a seizure and her body had shifted off the seat and was up against the window.
She ran to the front as the bus began to drive through the intersection, Lower said, because the driver’s feet were nowhere near the pedals.
Lower squeezed her way around the driver’s body to place her foot on the brake, but she stepped on the wrong pedal.
“I don’t have a licence at all. I don’t drive. I’ve never driven a day in my life,” Lower said yesterday, laughing nervously as she remembered the stress of the situation.
“So I hit the gas at first because I didn’t know which was which,” she noted.
“Then I hit the brake—I hit it pretty hard.”
Lower said an older man helped her move the driver while she kept her foot on the brake.
“There was a man who said he had heart issues recently and said he wasn’t in the greatest of health, but he picked her up around me and put her on the floor while I’m still trying to keep the bus from moving,” she recalled.
Police said there were about 10 passengers on the bus at the time.
When police showed up, they had to break the lock to get in because the bus was still in drive.
Lower only could see a “drive, neutral, and reverse button,” but no park.
“You’re doing a good job but don’t let go,” Lower recalls an officer telling her.
“I think I got this,” she told him.
Eventually they figured it out. No one was hurt, police said, and the driver is expected to make a full recovery.
Woodstock Cst. Nikki VanLeeuwen said Lower and the other passenger are heroes.
“There is a fight-or-flight response and many people wouldn’t have run toward the front of the bus, but we are grateful that these two passengers did,” VanLeeuwen said.
“This could have been much worse.”
VanLeeuwen said the driver will be assessed by her doctor, who will decide if she is well enough to continue driving.
She said both police and medical doctors have the power to inform the Ministry of Transportation to suspend a driving license for medical reasons.
Woodstock Transit refused to comment.
As for Lower, she said she plans to get her driver’s licence.
“I think I might get a licence because you never know what’s going to happen,” she remarked.