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MBTA Toughens Its Cellphone Policy For Drivers

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.

Benjamin Swasey Digital Manager
Ben Swasey is WBUR's digital manager.

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