Railroad officials issue emergency ban on distracting devices

The Federal Railroad Administration on Oct. 7 issued an emergency order to stop on-duty railroad operating employees from using cell phones and electronic devices.

FRA issued the emergency order (.pdf file) in light of recent incidents involving unsafe cell phone use, particularly the Sept. 12 head-on collision between a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train. The crash resulted in the deaths of 25 people, 135 injuries and more than $7.1 million in damages. Preliminary evidence from the ongoing investigation showed the cell phone owned by the Metrolink engineer had been used to send a text message within 30 seconds of the time of the crash.

FRA officials said they based their decision for the emergency order on evidence from crash investigations showing unsafe use of cell phones and other electronic devices during railroad operation, as well as scientific research showing the dangers of cell phones as a distraction on highways – particularly in the case of text messaging.

The emergency order will take effect Oct. 27.