Indiana DCS disciplines state worker for distracted driving caught on camera

A child took photos of a DCS worker using a cell phone behind the wheel.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) -- The Indiana Department of Child Services confirms it has taken disciplinary action against a case worker caught on camera breaking state rules.

The disciplinary action comes after a WTHR investigation exposed photos of the DCS employee driving two children to foster care. The photos show the case worker driving on a busy highway and, at the same time, appearing to be reading, looking up contacts and sending e-mails on her cell phone. The pictures were taken last month by the kids riding in her back seat, and the children told 13 Investigates it was a nerve-wracking ride.

“She was on her phone pretty much the whole time. She was writing, texting, calling…She wasn't paying much attention to the road,” one of the children told WTHR. “I was thinking we were going to be in a crash and one of those kids you hear about dying while in DCS,” the 11-year-old added.

“She was swerving a little bit, so I reached over like this and grabbed my sister’s hand, and I clenched her right here,” her brother said, showing how he held onto his sister’s wrist. “I asked [the worker] one time, “Can you put your phone away and drive please?” and she was like, “Well, if you want to go somewhere for tonight, I got to be on my phone to do stuff for you guys.

Indiana law prohibits using a cell phone to type, transmit, or read a text message or email message while operating a moving vehicle. All state employees must also sign an agreement pledging not to use their state-issued cell phones while driving.

That's why DCS conducted its own investigation after learning of the photos from WTHR.

This week, DCS spokesman James Wide told Eyewitness News the agency did decide to take disciplinary against the worker after its internal investigation, but Wide said he was unable to discuss any specifics of the punishment. The state personnel department informed 13 Investigates that the DCS case manager was not fired, suspended or demoted. The state investigation is now closed.

Following WTHR’s investigation, DCS sent a reminder to all employees reminding them not to drive while using their cell phones.

“State rules clearly prohibit use of devices while driving,” Wide told WTHR last month. “It is a big deal because…at the foundation [of DCS’s mission] is child safety, so if there's a child that's unsafe because of distracted driving, that's serious.”