Archive for Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tragic texts

October 8, 2008

In a recent editorial, the Lawrence Journal-World said:

On one hand you can’t believe it happened, and on the other hand, you can’t believe it didn’t happen sooner.

The National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed that a Los Angeles Metrolink engineer was sending text messages from his cell phone on the day his commuter train crashed into a freight train, killing 25 people, including the engineer. NTSB didn’t say exactly when the messages were sent, but two teens have told a Los Angeles television station they received a text message from the engineer about a minute before the collision.

No matter how many inattentive drivers we’ve seen talking on cell phones, it still is stunning to think that someone operating a commuter train could run a red signal light causing a fatal crash that killed 25 people and injured more than 130 because he was distracted by sending a text message on his cell phone.

It’s almost as stunning to learn that although Southern California’s Metrolink prohibited rail workers from using cell phones on the job, there is no federal or state regulation regarding the use of cell phones by railroad employees. The California Public Utilities Commission beefed up those regulations by issuing an emergency order banning train operators from using cell phones and other electronic devices while operating a train.

Obviously, the engineer paid the ultimate price for ignoring a policy that should have been a matter of common sense. Too bad 24 innocent people also were part of that toll.

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