Device distraction on the railroad

During my 40-mile commute each day, it's not uncommon for me to see a slow driver holding up a long line of traffic as he taps out a text on his cell phone. Nor is it unusual to see a driver holding a cell phone to her ear as her car weaves back and forth over the lines of her traffic lane.

Such behavior scares me, especially if I see texting/talking drivers with children in the car. Imagine the potential consequences.

Now, imagine those drivers in charge of operating a massive freight or commuter train, or performing other duties critical to a railroad's operations. Although federal regulations and railroad operating rules already prohibit railroad workers from improperly using electronic devices like cell phones on the job, more can and should be done to discourage such behavior, according to federal and railroad industry officials.

So, earlier this month, the Federal Railroad Administration launched a collaborative effort with rail carriers and rail unions to remind railroad employees about the dangers of using electronic devices while on the job.

"Incidents related to electronic device distractions can occur on a train as well as off. The important thing to remember — whether you are a crew member, a supervisor, a maintenance way worker or a worker in a yard office — is that accidents related to device distraction are 100 percent preventable … if employees are willing to step up and speak up when they see unsafe behavior," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote about the new effort in his "Fastlane" blog yesterday.

What do you think about employees' use of electronic devices while working on the railroad? You can share your thoughts in a post below or by casting a vote in this week's poll.

You also can read more about the FRA's new effort here.

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