Safety & Accident

Boston Transit Authority Bans Cell Phones after Crash

May 14, 2009

BOSTON – The head of the Boston transit authority plans to ban the operators of trains, trolleys, and buses from carrying cell phones and personal electronic devices after 49 people were injured May 8 when an operator crashed into another trolley while texting, according to the New York Times. The 24-year-old trolley operator was reportedly sending a text message to his girlfriend when the rear-end collision occurred.

"They're not to have [a cell phone] on their person," said Daniel Grabauskas, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. "They're not to bring it in the cab of the train or on board the bus. They're to leave it at home, leave it in their car, leave it in their locker or leave it with someone else," he said, as reported the New York Times.  Grabauskas said operators would be dismissed immediately if found with such a device.

This is the most restrictive ban on cell phones by transit workers in the nation, including California, where last September 25 people were killed and 135 injured when the engineer of a Los Angeles commuter train collided with a freight train moments after sending a text message, according to the New York Times.

Currently, employees are prohibited from talking or texting on their cell phones while working, but are permitted to carry them. The new rule would bar operators from even bringing the devices on board, reported the Boston Globe. A first offense resulted in a three-day suspension, a second offense resulted in 10 days, and a third offense resulted in termination. In special cases, an operator could be terminated on the first offense, Grabauskas said, noting the May 8 incident may well be one of those special cases, reported the Globe.

"He was looking down at his phone," Grabauskas said. "He noticed red lights, looked up, attempted to apply the brake, and it was too late. He struck a train that was stopped at a red signal."

In the chaotic aftermath of Friday night's collision, 49 of the 124 passengers from both trains were taken to local hospitals, where they treated for minor injuries, Grabauskas said. The trolley operator, who was on the job for 22 months, suffered the most serious injury, a broken wrist.


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