New law focused on distracted driving takes effect January 1, 2010
by Fred Hansen, General Manager — last modified Nov 12, 2009 03:59 PM
The new law impacts all TriMet employees who use cell phones
There have been numerous stories in the media about the dangers of distracted driving and accidents caused by drivers texting or on a cell phone. In response, the Oregon Legislature recently passed a bill to outlaw the use of handheld cell phones while operating a vehicle.
The new law allows the police to cite a driver using a handheld cell phone beginning January 1, 2010. The new law does not prohibit hands free use. However, TriMet’s policy goes further than the law, since we do not allow either handheld or hands free cell phone usage.
TriMet policy prohibits personal cell phone use (handheld or hands free) while operating a bus, train, LIFT or non-revenue vehicle (including a privately-owned vehicle) on TriMet business. For TriMet staff not operating a bus, LIFT or train but driving while on TriMet business, you must pull over and stop the vehicle before answering or dialing a cell phone.
Discipline procedures for violating the policy will also change: If there is proof that non-business cell phone use occurred while operating a revenue vehicle on TriMet business, we consider this a violation of District policy, as well as the Working and Wage Agreement, and can be cause for immediate termination.
There is solid research as to why driving while distracted is a serious issue. Research has found that a motorist talking on a cell phone is "four times as likely to crash as other drivers" and as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content."
In addition to restricting all personal cell phone use while operating a TriMet vehicle, it also restricts use of a personal cell phone while operating a personal vehicle in the course and scope of carrying out job duties.
No audio or video device of any kind including headsets, wireless earpieces, and cellular phones, shall ever be used or visible while you are in the driver’s seat unless you are parked at a layover.
Operators shall not use cellular telephones or other communications devices in an operating cab while the train is away from a terminal station, except to contact Control during a radio system failure.
Driving even with a hands free device is still distracting and can put our employees, riders and others at risk. I have a zero tolerance for violating our policies or the law. Compromising safety and distracted driving is not worth the risk.