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Bus and Train Drivers Face Added Scrutiny Amid Distracted Driving Crashes

The media has been reporting lots of bad news about distracted driving incidents lately, including tragic accidents where buses and trains were involved in serious or fatal collisions due to a driver who failed to pay careful attention. railway-tracks-1428076-m.jpg

Our injury lawyers in Massachusetts know that this wave of bad news has led to added scrutiny of bus and train drivers, with transit agencies taking new approaches to promote safety in order to reduce the risk to passengers and others on the roads.

Focus Turns to Distracted Bus and Train Drivers

Pew Charitable Trusts summarized some of the tragic accidents that have occurred in recent months involving bus and train drivers. These incidents included:

  • A bus driver who jumped a curb and knocked over a light post while he was driving and talking on his cell phone. The accident killed an eight-month-old baby in her stroller and another seven bystanders were hurt in the crash.
  • A Spanish train crashed as the driver was on a cell phone, killing 69 people and forcing California officials to demonstrate the safety of the city’s rail project.
  • A crash that caused the broken bones of an 86-year-old woman in a crosswalk after a driver ran her over and dragged her for half a blocks. This accident happened because the driver was reaching down to grab something in the car.

These are just three of many incidents that happen each year as drivers responsible for commanding big buses and huge trains choose to focus on something besides the road or tracks in front of them. When these high-profile accidents make the news, it puts pressure on lawmakers and regulators to act and it draws attention to the very real dangers that exist.

Laws and Regulations on Buses and Trains

As Pew Charitable trusts point out, the American Public Transportation Association set standards in 2009 for transit systems. The standards say that drivers should turn off their mobile phones and should stow them away out-of-reach when driving. The American Public Transportation Association also agreed that it would promote the reduction of interruptions from fare boxes, dispatchers and on-board alerts from transit agencies.

The standards set forth by the APTA are voluntary, but are almost universally adopted (likely in part because companies don’t want to take the risk of failing to have a policy that is normal for the industry since this can lead to allegations of negligence).

Standards set by federal regulations, on the other hand, are not voluntary. The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a ban on the use of handheld phones for the four million truck drivers and drivers of interstate buses two years ago, and states are starting to follow the federal government’s lead, either by automatically incorporating the federal rules changes into their own regulations or by going through a rule-making process. Rail lines are also regulated by the federal government, with rail lines actually more regulated than buses.

Transit agencies also have a role to play in reducing distracted driving crashes. Transit agencies, for example, routinely test bus drivers on the key business tasks they are responsible for including taking fares and customer service.

Between an added focus by lawmakers and by transit agencies, as well as headlines in the paper serving as a frequent reminder of the dangers of driving distracted, hopefully those who operate public transportation will make smart choices and avoid putting innocent passengers at risk.

If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident, contact Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 888-367-2900.

More Blog Entries:
Commuter Rail Train Hits and Kills Man in Norwood, Boston Personal Injury Attorney Blog, September 26, 2013