July 10, 2009

D.C. Metro to prohibit cell phone use, texting

Metrobus and Metrorail operators caught using a cell phone, texting or using a PDA while operating a vehicle will be fired under a new zero tolerance policy announced Thursday by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) GM John Catoe. The new policy will take effect on Monday, July 13.

 

“There is no excuse for anyone who is operating a Metrobus or Metrorail train to be using a cell phone or texting other than for an emergency situation, regardless of whether there are passengers on board,” Catoe said. “We’ve seen the tragic consequences of what happened in Boston and Los Angeles when a transit operator was texting instead of paying attention to the operation of a vehicle. We will not see a repeat here,” he said, referring to recent fatal crashes in those cities. “One strike and you’re out. It’s plain, simple and strong."

 

The older policy was a progressive disciplinary procedure that gave employees three strikes before termination. The first offense resulted in a five-day suspension without pay; the second a 10-day suspension without pay; the third offense resulted in termination. Metro officials will spend the next few days finalizing the language for its official policy and notifying employees that the “three strikes” disciplinary policy that had been in place is a thing of the past.

 

The new policy will allow train and bus operators to use personal cell phones during a Metro-defined emergency situation.

 

The preliminary investigation into last month’s Metrorail train accident at the Fort Totten Metrorail station indicates that Metrorail train operator Jeanice McMillan, who died in the collision, was not using her cell phone while at the controls of her train. After the crash, investigators discovered McMillan’s cell phone in her knapsack.

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