Is it going too far?

Posted on May 14, 2009 by Alex Roman - Also by this author

To me, there were so many reasons not to own a cell phone. The least of which is my frustration of being stuck behind somebody on the road who is paying more attention to their phone call than their driving. Yet finally, after much chastising from family and friends, who felt it important for me to have one “just in case,” I relented less than two years ago.

Going to the store to buy a cell phone was a sad day, because to me cell phones will always be a nuisance. However, in the last two years, I have been in emergency situations where it paid to have one. For example, when my car was blindsided by another driver, who fled the scene, I was able to call the police, and the offender was located. There are also countless stories in the news of people involved in serious life and death situations where their cell phones came in handy.

In response to Friday's Green Line crash, Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is banning its bus, train and subway operators from using cell phones, iPods or paging devices while on duty. The ban even goes as far as disallowing operators from even carrying these devices. Operators who violate the new zero tolerance policy will be immediately suspended, with a recommendation for dismissal.

While I completely believe that using a phone while driving a vehicle is stupid and dangerous — and even more so when it is a heavy vehicle, such as a trolley, that has the potential to cause serious damage, not to mention kill hundreds of passengers — I can’t help but think that it may be a violation of MBTA operators’ personal rights. What’s going to happen when an operator is in an emergency situation (business or personal)? What do they do? When you ban something, there are always extenuating circumstances that make it seem as if it may be going a little too far. Do you think MBTA’s outright ban goes too far?

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