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'Draconian' cellphone rules for Transit drivers

By: staff

Date: Friday, 22. May 2009

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has set tough rules about mobile phone use for its drivers - they are banned from keeping electronic devices with them, even in a pocket, knapsack or handbag, while operating an MBTA vehicle. The rules came into force within days of a crash in which the driver admitted he was texting his girlfriend at the time.

Twenty-four-year-old trolley driver Aiden Quinn had been on the job for just 22 months when his vehicle ran a red light, destroying three trolley cars, injuring dozens of passengers and causing almost $10 million worth of Damage.

Before his crash, drivers were allowed to carry mobile phones with them as long as they did not use them on the job. Now, some are wondering whether the total ban is not overkill and deprives Transit employees of an extremely valuable emergency tool as well as a comforting and important connection to their friends and family while working.

Texting while driving, especially a public transit vehicle with passengers on board, would seem to be so foolish that it would not require a rule to prevent it, But MBTA drivers have been doing it.

Just in the past year, according to a article, "five train and trolley operators and 12 bus drivers received suspensions and one bus driver was fired." However, even still, passengers have reported seeing drivers using phones while driving.

Under the new rules, first-time offenders will get a 10-day suspension, and they�re subject to dismissal after a second offence.

In media blogs following Quinn's crash most people took a harsh view of Quinn's behavior. However, some felt that depriving responsible drivers of phone use just because of the actions of a few is unfair.

Some point out that Quinn had previous driving convictions and should never have been hired. An article on reports that the state Registry of Motor Vehicles records Quinn as receiving two speeding tickets in New Hampshire in April 2007, one in Raynham in 2003 and one in Middleborough in December 2002.

Your comments: Is the MBTA taking the easy way out with tough rules when it should have dealt with the problem through better hiring practices and better training?

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drivers are gonna have to learn how to deal with all these new distractions. we can pass all the laws we want we'll still have a distraction problem. In the case of the boston transit --- i think they have a hiring problem AND a training problem and they're blaming it on all the drivers who act responsibly!!

Transit guy,

Looks like a few irresponsible people have screwed thinks up for transit drivers everywhere. Texting while driving a public transportation vehicle with passengers is so ridiculously bad that you would have to think the MBTA has either poor hiring procedures or poor training or both.


I don't think it's such a great rule -- impossible to enforce. Are they going to search the drivers? It's just another way of hammering the poor mope if something goes wrong, as is the case with most weak legislation and rulemaking. It's kind of a silly rule but predictable -- authorities need to be seen to be doing something, effectiveness almost never matters.

What bothers me more is the editor's idea that this guy should not have been hired because of 2 speeding tickets in the back woods -- since these are mainly a random tax on the amount of driving done -- almost everybody drives above the limit almost all time.

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