Harsher regulations for public transportation drivers

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP)– Following crash in Newton last month the MBTA is now enlisting stricter policies for their drivers and their cell phones.

In that crash, the bus driver is being accused of having her phone in her hand when the accident happened.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced this week that drivers are not allowed to carry cell phones while they work.  If a driver of the MBTA is caught carrying a cell phone while on his or her route, they will be suspended for 30 days with a recommendation to be fired regardless of their work record.  MBTA officials believe their new policy will be the toughest in the nations in regards to distracted driving.

PVTA riders in Springfield told 22News that policy could be a problem in emergency situations.

“They should be able to carry they’re personal phones on them just in case of an emergency, because what if they cant get in touch with the dispatcher?” Todd Richardson, from Springfield, said.

“Well everybody should be allowed to have their phone.  Like for instance in school we’re not really allowed to use it during school and stuff like that but when it comes to emergencies everybody should be allowed to a have phone,” Joel Gonzalez, from Springfield, said.

22News took this issue to Pioneer valley transit authority officials and found out keeping a phone with on standby is allowed for PVTA drivers but not using them while driving is strictly enforced.

PVTA administrator Mary MacInnes told 22News their drivers can carry a phone because drivers are dealing with hilly terrain that can cause radio transmission to cut out.

“There are places where radio transmission doesn’t always work, and so having a cellphone for emergencies, we feel, is a safety issue,” MacInnes said.

MacInnes also told 22News cell phones are to be kept out of sight and drivers face a five day suspension if they use their phone and will be fired for a second offense.  In emergency situations, if a driver needs to use his cell phone he or she is required to pull over and get off the bus before they dial.

In the last year the PVTA says they’ve had a handful of drivers break those policies and in many of those cases they were caught by commuters.  MacInnes also said they’re policy has been in place for several year but that they will be revisiting it following MBTA’s announcement.

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