Texting and Train Operators: What are the Rules?

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Everyone knows that using your phone behind the wheel is dangerous, but thousands of people are killed by distracted drivers every year in the United States. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), automobile drivers aren't the only drivers who shouldn't text behind the wheel. In 2008, a Metrolink crash in Chatsworth, California killed 25 people. The accident occurred when a Union Pacific freight train and Metrolink commuter train collided near Los Angeles, California. After investigating the wreck, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) discovered that Metrolink operator ran through red signal because he was texting.

After the accident, the FRA issued a regulation that prohibits railroad workers from texting on duty. In fact, the rule disallows railway employees from using any type of electronic device at work. It says, "No individual in the cab of a controlling locomotive shall use an electronic device that would interfere with a railroad operating employee's performance of safety-related duties." More specifically, FRA says that all personal electronic devices (like phones and iPods) must be turned off when they are on a moving train. The regulation further specifies that personal electronics must be turned off if any member of the train crew is on the ground, riding equipment during a switching operation or preparing the train for movement.

Electronic devices supplied by the railroad are subject to slightly different guidelines. Railroad-supplied devices can only be used for business purposes. These purposes must be written down by the railroad. Like personal electronics, locomotive engineers are not allowed to railroad electronic devices when the train is moving, a crewmember is on the ground, during a switching operation, or when employees are preparing the train for movement. In order to use railroad electronics in a freight or passenger locomotive controlling cab, a safety briefing must be conducted between all crewmembers. Use of the device will be completely prohibited if any member of the crew thinks that it is unsafe to use.

Several lawsuits emerged after the Chatsworth accident. First, the family of a teenager killed in the accident filed a claim alleging that the Metrolink failed to use available rail safety features. A short time later, an attorney representing the freight train filed a lawsuit against the Metrolink, naming the engineer of the Metrolink as one of the defendants. At Kennedy Hodges, L.L.P., we believe that accident victims and their families have the right to pursue compensation for injuries and losses. Have you suffered in an avoidable accident? We have the skill and experience to help you fight for the money you need and deserve. Contact us today to see what a Houston personal injury lawyer can do for your case.

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