News & Current Affairs

September 19, 2008

LA train crash prompts phone ban

LA train crash prompts phone ban

File photo of Robert Sanchez

Train operator Robert Sanchez died in the crash along with 24 others

Train drivers in California are to be banned from using mobile phones on duty after a crash in Los Angeles last week that killed 25 people.

The state’s rail regulators said the emergency ruling was a first step to improving railroad safety.

The move comes a day after it emerged the driver of the Metrolink train had used his phone on the day of the crash.

Many rail firms – including Metrolink – prohibit staff from using mobiles on duty, but the rules are often ignored.

There is currently no federal law banning train drivers from using mobile phones at work.

Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, said the action would “protect the public”.

“What we’re doing… is just a modest first step in a much larger effort to improve railroad safety.”

The use of mobile phones by train drivers is thought to have been a factor in two rail accidents earlier in the year, the commission said.

Anyone found guilty of violating the new order could now be fined up to $20,000 (£11,000).

Phone records

The Metrolink passenger train was carrying 222 passengers between Los Angeles and Moorpark, north-west of the city, when the crash happened a week ago.

Investigators assess train crash in Los Angeles on 16/09/08

Investigators are trying to find out the exact cause of the crash

Rail investigators have concluded that driver Robert Sanchez failed to apply the brakes before a red light – and ploughed into an oncoming freight train.

The force of the impact drove the passenger train’s engine back inside the first carriage.

Mr Sanchez was among 25 people killed and more than 130 injured – the deadliest train accident in the US in 15 years.

The US National Transport Safety Board (NTSB), investigating the crash, has confirmed Mr Sanchez sent and received text messages on his mobile phone at work, but are still determining whether he was doing so at the time of the crash.

They have requested mobile phone records after two teenage train enthusiasts who befriended the driver told a local TV station they received a text message from Mr Sanchez just before the crash.

Investigators have warned it is too early to conclude exactly what caused the crash.

Other causes being studied include possible equipment failure or the chance that the driver was suddenly incapacitated.

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