May 14, 2009

Massachusetts Transit Drivers Barred From Carrying Cell Phones

In one of the toughest restriction moves by a U.S. state transit agency, Massachusetts on Wednesday banned drivers of trains, street cars and buses from using or even carrying cell phones at work, Reuters reported.

The state will issue a one month suspension and managers will recommend dismissal to any driver working for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority caught talking or text-messaging on a cell phone or similar device during their routes.

A first offense would result in a 10-day suspension for any drivers found carrying their phones while on duty. A second incident would see them suspended for a month and they would receive a dismissal recommendation.

A trolley operator told authorities he was sending a text message to his girlfriend when two trolleys collided in a Boston tunnel on Friday, injuring 49 people.

Daniel Grabauskas, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said the new policy would have prevented such an accident.

"I know what I saw on Friday night in that tunnel. I know what the cause was," he said.

The new rules are the most stringent of any U.S. state transit authority, according to the National Safety Council, an independent, nonprofit group.

Massachusetts Transportation Secretary James Aloisi told a news conference he predicted the new policies established in Massachusetts would soon become a national model.

State transit operators in Massachusetts were already barred from using cell phones and the new, tougher rules take effect on Monday.

A hotline service will be made available in case a driver needs to be contacted by family in an emergency, the transit authority said.


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