The dangers of ‘distracted commuting’

Posted on May 21, 2014 by Heather Redfern - Also by this author

Surveillance footage shows a man at the Berks Station on SEPTA's Market-Frankford subway-elevated line talking on his phone, walking off the platform and falling into the track area. He was not seriously hurt.
Surveillance footage shows a man at the Berks Station on SEPTA's Market-Frankford subway-elevated line talking on his phone, walking off the platform and falling into the track area. He was not seriously hurt.

Super-fast smartphones, tablets and other mobile electronic equipment have not only put the world in the palm of our hands, they have also succeeded in steering our attention away from our immediate surroundings.

“Distracted behaviors caused by being too connected to our electronic devices have become a more frequent occurrence at our stations and transportation centers,” said Scott Sauer, system safety director for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). “People are so engrossed in what they are reading or listening to on their smartphones that they are stepping out in front of buses and walking off the platforms into the track area.”

RELATED: UTA: 'Distracted walking' fines, other measures working

Over the past year, SEPTA officials have responded to a few track fall incidents each month throughout the transit system, with a majority of those happening on the Market-Frankford subway-elevated and Broad Street subway lines.

Surveillance cameras often show people — some impaired or under the influence, others talking or texting on their phones or otherwise distracted — walking past the yellow warning strip and landing into the track area.

“That is especially troubling on the subway and subway-elevated lines, where not only is the drop from the platform to the track about four feet, there is an electrified third rail,” said Sauer. “And in many cases, our trains are just minutes from entering the stations where the falls had just occurred.”

In some of the videos, those who fall are looking up or down the track for the train, stepping over the warning strip to do so.  

“Looking down the platform does not make the train come faster,” said Sauer. “The safety line is there for a reason. You can still stand behind it and see and hear the train coming.”

Amazingly, only one of these falls has resulted in a fatality. On April 29, 2014, a woman survived a fall into SEPTA’s Broad Street Line tracks even though her leg hit the third rail, which was fully powered.

“In some cases, the victims have suffered cuts, head injuries and broken bones, while others have been able to pull themselves out of the track area,” said Sauer. “Luckily, other passengers have quickly alerted staff to the situations by pressing the emergency call buttons and talking to our cashiers, giving us time to cut off power and stop trains.”

To decrease track fall incidents, SEPTA is making distracted commuting the focus of its second annual systemwide “Make the Safe Choice” Safety Day. On May 21, 500 of the transit system’s employees will distribute educational materials and answer safety questions at 120 SEPTA rail, trolley and bus stations; loops and transportation centers throughout SEPTA’s five-county service area during the morning and evening rush hours.

“Just taking a few seconds to check your surroundings, staying behind yellow lines on platforms and not running to catch a train or bus can be the difference between life and death,” said Sauer. “We can’t emphasize that enough.” 

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "Advancing women in transportation: Closing the gap"



View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More Transit Dispatches Blog Posts

May 20, 2015

Catenary Replacement Plan Leads to 150 Miles of Success

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s Regional (commuter) Rail system was inherited from the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads and the infrastructure in many sections of the system has been serving the Philadelphia area for more than 100 years. Fifteen years ago, overhead catenary system (OCS) failures were a common occurrence on SEPTA Regional Rail, a result of fatigue cracks and wear. The all too common OCS failures were frustrating for SEPTA customers who occasionally found it difficult to depend on train service for their travels and for SEPTA, whose crews were constantly working to repair and maintain the system.

May 15, 2015

Cycling & Public Transport - Are they Really Working Together?

London is one of the grand cities of the world and in the midst of the cycling revolution. Led by the city’s transport organization – Transport for London, but supported by more fundamental changes in the city’s society, economy and perceptions of lifestyle and mobility, cycling is “on a roll”!

May 14, 2015

Uber, Lyft have opportunity to complement local transit networks

Tech-enabled ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft already appear to be acting as a complement to public transit. Uber analyzed its Los Angeles trip data to in this light. Over the course of a month, Uber found that 22 percent of trips taken near Metro stations took place during rush hour (between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday). This data could be telling us that people are using Uber like they might use bikeshare, as a last-mile and first-mile connection to transit.

May 6, 2015

Will driverless buses be accepted sooner than driverless cars?

Driverless cars have been in the news for quite some time. Last September, I speculated in PC 360, an insurance trade magazine, that insurance premiums for autos could decrease by as much as 40% over the next five years as autonomous cars made travel much safer. I increased my estimate to a 75% decrease in insurance premiums by extending the timeline to 15 years. When I wrote those two articles, I remember thinking how much of a personal paradigm shift was needed to accept a driverless car as safe. Now, it appears that driverless buses are in the near future as well.

April 27, 2015

Public Transit Companies Among Country’s Best Employers

What do transit authorities like SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART have in common other than transporting thousands, even millions of riders every day? All were recently ranked as four of the U.S.’s 500 “Best Employers” by Forbes magazine.
SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART were among 25 organizations included in Forbes’ “Transportation & Logistics” category, along with Southwest Airlines, Amtrak, CSX, Union Pacific and Greyhound. In fact, SEPTA (#33) and MBTA (#49) placed higher than Apple (#55) and SEPTA was the highest ranked company in Pennsylvania.

See More

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The resource for managers of class 1-7 truck Fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close