Thursday, November 5, 2009


Distracted driving in the public spotlight
by Fred Hansen, General Manager — last modified Oct 30, 2009 08:38 AM

Media story coming soon on TriMet operators and cell phone use

We are in a period of heightened public awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. The latest research found that a motorist talking on a cell phone is “four times as likely to crash as other drivers” and “as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content.” More and more people—employees, customers, reporters and the public—are speaking up when they see someone using a cell phone while driving. They are concerned for their safety and the safety of others.

The Oregonian is planning to run an article about TriMet operators and cell phone use. Other media attention may follow. In this time of heightened public attention, I want to take this opportunity to restate that TriMet policy prohibits talking or texting while operating a vehicle and conducting TriMet business. The relevant policies include:

HR 206: A cellular phone may never be used when operating a TriMet revenue or non-revenue vehicle, or when operating a personal vehicle in the course and scope of carrying out job duties….If an employee has a TriMet cellular phone and needs to make or accept a call while driving, the employee must pull over or stop the vehicle in a safe location and make or accept the call while the vehicle is stopped.
SOP 81: No audio or video device of any kind including headsets, wireless earpieces, and cellular phones, shall ever be used or visible while you are in the driver’s seat unless you are parked at a layover.
RAIL 8.3.4: Operators shall not use cellular telephones or other communications devices in an operating cab while the train is away from a terminal station, except to contact Control during a radio system failure.

Some transit properties, such as Boston’s, don’t allow frontline employees to carry cell phones at work, even if they’re turned off and off their person. As I said in my interview with The Oregonian, our approach at TriMet is to set a high standard and to put faith in our employees to understand the rules and abide by them. (For a more detailed discussion of this topic in the context of operating a train or bus, please see Steve Banta’s 10/20/09 column on TriNET.) Distracted driving is not worth the risk to the safety of our employees, customers and equipment, as well as that of other people and vehicles on the road.

Thank you. We never compromise safety.

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