Regulators Issue Emergency Cell Phone Ban for Railroad Workers


Following the September 12 Metrolink train accident in California that killed 25 people after the commuter train slammed into a freight train, federal regulators have issued an emergency ban on cell phone usage by those who work for the railroads. This is due to the finding that Metrolink engineer, Robert Sanchez, was most likely texting on his cell phone as he ran through a red light and then into another train. The collision occurred 22 seconds after Sanchez’s last text. Sanchez was among the 25 people killed.

The federal regulations state that any violators will be fined or removed from their jobs under the new rule. In the ruling, the Railroad Administration notes that those working for the railroads are increasingly using cell phones and can be easily distracted as seems the case with Sanchez. The administration notes six train accidents between 2000 and 2006 that were caused by someone using a cell phone. Four of those accidents resulted in deaths.

Metrolink adopted a cell phone ban in the engine cab before the September accident, but will now enforce the ban by having a second engineer in the cab and installing video cameras to monitor engineer behavior. Safety advocates claim this ban isn’t enough and are pushing railroads to invest in technology that will apply the brakes when a train runs a red light or somehow gets off track. The White House backs this plan, and a spokesman said President Bush is expected to sign rail safety reform legislation that also requires more rest for workers in addition to the brake technology. If it passes, the bill will take effect in 2015.