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MBTA Toughens Its Cellphone Policy For Drivers

BOSTON — The MBTA is cracking down on cellphone possession by its drivers.

Bus, train and trolley operators now face termination for possession of a phone or similar device while on duty, according to a new policy order from the transit agency.

In a photo released by the Newton Fire Department, an MBTA bus hangs over the Mass Pike following a May 18 crash.

In a photo released by the Newton Fire Department, an MBTA bus hangs over the Mass Pike following a May 18 crash.

“Any employee found to have possession of or using a prohibited electronic device will be in violation of this Special Order,” it states. “This will result in a 30 day suspension with recommendation for discharge for the first offense; this is regardless of your prior record or work history.”

Operators can’t have devices in their possession, such as in a pocket or pocketbook, the order makes clear.

The T’s previous policy called for automatic termination for any operator found using a cellphone, and a 10-day suspension for possession of a device, according to spokesman Joe Pesaturo.

“I’m very proud of our employees’ dedication to providing excellent public service, but it’s also important to reinforce our commitment to safety through the implementation of clear and strict regulations,” MBTA GM Beverly Scott said in a statement. “It’s absolutely essential that we do everything we can to help ensure that each customer’s trip is a safe one.”

The new order comes after a MBTA bus accident on May 18 in Newton. The driver, Shanna Shaw, has pleaded not guilty on an obstruction of justice charge.

As The Associated Press reported:

Shaw at first told investigators she lost control because of a sneezing fit caused by allergies, but according to police records, she had a cellphone in her hand at the time of the crash, a violation of MBTA rules.

Eight people, including Shaw, suffered minor injuries in the crash.

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  • Lawrence

    Too bad we can’t enforce tougher laws for all drivers on the road.
    Accidents and killings of innocent people just because we all are
    addicted to texting, talking, and surfing the web on our phones.

    Off the phones people. Otherwise it’s just a matter of time.

  • gotham77

    The drivers and operators obviously can’t be trusted to have devices in their possession and not use them, they’ve proven that. So taking away that privilege was necessary. Leave your phones in your lockers!

  • gotham77

    “I think drivers can keep cellphone but should not be allowed to use while driving passengers.”

    That was the old policy, and it was changed because the drivers have proven that they can’t be trusted not to take them out and use them while on the job…not to mention that you appear to be under the impression that nobody can hurt when the bus has no passengers, as if the driver isn’t risking the lives of everybody else out on the street and sidewalk, too.

    This whole “what if there’s an emergency back home” nonsense is a red herring. Yeah, so what if there IS an emergency back home? What is the driver going to do about it? They don’t need to be instantly notified, because there’s nothing they can do to alleviate this hypothetical emergency from behind the wheel of a bus. If there’s an emergency, someone will contact their employer and their employer will contact them…y’know, just like how things were done in the days before everybody had a cellphone.

    The idea that telling a bus operator that they can’t have a phone while driving a bus is “selfish” is so silly and absurd to me. Are you for real?

  • Anthony Lewis

    I figure this will be coming to NY soon, where I am employed by the Transit Authority.

    So I ask…how would they know if you have a phone inside your bag? Would we have to submit to random searches in the same way we submit to random drug tests?

    Taking a urine sample is one thing. Submitting to an invasive search is another. I smell a lawsuit coming.

    • Lawrence

      Searchers may not be performed. The enforcement can come from finding out in other ways. That is, seeing someone with it in hand, or if an employee takes it out of a bag, or if an accident happens a search will be made etc..

      • Anthony Lewis

        - This is dangerous ground. Anyone can say they have probable cause. And I don’t know how it is there, but here, a customer can claim they saw ANYTHING (real, false or imagined) against an employee and have it acted on.

        I hope NYC Transit decides that their restrictions are restrictive enough and not get into any potential violations of space or privacy.

        • Lawrence

          It’s more dangerous to having crashes where multiple innocent victims are injured, disfigured, paralyzed or murdered.

          • Anthony Lewis

            Yes Lawrence. I’m not a complete idiot.

            And so you know…more PASSENGERS are injured from their OWN cellphone use on a daily basis, because of their OWN inattentiveness, than from one or two operators illegal use of them.

          • Lawrence

            Likewise more people are injured in their own kitchens. What does that have to do with the price of fish?

            And that does not mean we should ignore the threat of cell phone carrying MBTA workers who are entrusted to the public safety.

          • Anthony Lewis

            And I repeat: “Yes Lawrence. I’m not a complete idiot.”

            You strike me as a person who think HIS opinion is the only one that matters. YES, I am concerned with passenger safety, since I’ve been charged with it every work day for the last 21 plus years as an employee of the New York City Transit Authority. I understand about customer safety. But what about MY privacy as an employee? What? I don’t count? I don’t want any searches of MY personal property because some disgruntled passenger, mad because he missed a train, just randomly reporting to a supervisor “I saw him holding a phone.” And if you’ve never been spit on because a passenger missed a train by a second (as I have been), you wouldn’t think that would happen. The riding public can be very nasty. THIS is what I am concerned about. A random passenger’s perverse need for revenge on a civil servant.

          • Lawrence

            If you don’t carry the cell phone you won’t have anything to worry about.

            Yes, I am aware of how nasty and offensive riders are and I think it’s horrible.

            If some disgruntled passenger reports you for using a phone when you in fact did not, wouldn’t it be great when, upon inspection, you prove you were not even carrying a cell phone at all.

            If you want privacy at work? Do as we all do at airports. Don’t carry anything that you don’t want inspected, including cell phones and other devices that are causing crashes at an alarming rate, resulting in deaths of innocent passengers and costing millions in damages.

            Don’t forget that the law was only imposed after drivers were unable to constrain themselves from texting, e-mailing and reading the web while operating machinery that caused horrible crashes.

          • Anthony Lewis

            First of all, it’s not a law. It’s a regulation. An overreaching one at that. And I really hope NYC Transit decides that their regulation (not allowed to have phone in sight while on duty, but can use on authorized breaks in break areas or off system property) is restrictive enough. Because even with this attempt to criminalize the cellphone, it is NOT an unlicensed gun or a concealed knife.

            But the GOOD news is that 99.9% of all transportation workers do not engage in such behavior. Or else you would be hearing or seeing instances of this every single day, either through reported accidents or pictues/video taken by passenger. So let’s not act that this is some rampant problem or some epidemic. It is VERY RARE. And YES, that .1% is too much.

            In my opinion, and knowing how these transportation authorities think, this is more of an attempt to thin out the herd and bring in new workers at a lower rate and more favorable pension terms. And you call me paranoid if need be. I do not believe for one second that this is 100% about customer safety. It’s a HUGE part of it, but if they can kill two birds with one stone, they’d use that opportunity at every turn.

  • Joanna

    Where laws and regulations are used to restrict ways of doing things to those currently known, those restrictions prevent people from trying new ways of doing things and thus prevent innovation and technological advance.

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