Earlier today, we released a powerful video, "Faces of Distracted Driving: Jacy Good," about the dangers of cell phone use while driving. That's just the latest effort in the fight we've been waging against this deadly epidemic for more than two years.
But our safety initiatives to prevent distraction don't end with motor vehicles on our roadways. In fact, all modes of transportation are susceptible to dangerous distractions caused by the improper use of electronic devices.
As we look to the future, railroads are poised to play an ever-greater role in the movement of people and goods. The hazards of using distracting electronic devices on America's railways have been made abundantly and, at times, tragically clear.
Last month, the Federal Railroad Administration hosted an Electronic Device Distraction Summit. And just last week, FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo addressed the Rail Safety Advisory Committee with a clear anti-distraction message:
"Despite specific restrictions and the increased attention the problem is receiving, we know that the improper use of personal electronic devices continues in the rail industry. There is more that we must do to make this behavior socially unacceptable in the workplace."
Administrator Szabo also pointed out that the dangers of distraction are not limited to locomotive cabs: "While the temptation is to focus on train and engine employees, the reality is that yardmen, dispatchers, signal maintainers, roadway workers, shuttle drivers, and those in the mechanical shops are all at risk where the improper use of distracting devices is concerned."
He continued, “the railroad environment is unforgiving, requiring complete concentration, and the slightest lapse in situational awareness--even while simply walking--can have fatal implications. When on duty, turn off personal cell phones and put them away. And if a cell phone is required for official business, make sure to carefully follow all regulations and work rules.”
I appreciate the Administrator's efforts to eliminate device distraction wherever it poses a safety threat. I also appreciate his point that, in addition to the regulatory steps we've taken, our best opportunity for attacking the problem of electronic device distraction is through voluntary, peer-to-peer intervention and communication.
The fact is, railroad managers and FRA inspectors can’t be everywhere, so grass roots action by the rank and file is the only way to effectively combat unsafe behaviors. That's why we're encouraging employers in the rail industry to use peer intervention programs to help workers teach each other to stop this dangerous behavior. Experience has shown that these peer coaching programs work, because they are the most direct way to convey messages to all employees and are received with credibility.
The Railroad Safety Advisory Committee has accepted the charge to establish a task force to foster these programs, helping us move forward together with our rail industry partners to set a course toward changing rail workers' attitudes about the dangers of device distraction.