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MARTA to Crack Down on Distracted Driving

A series of safety incidents in the past few months that have involved MARTA drivers distracted at the wheel, has had Atlanta personal injury lawyers as well as the agency concerned about the increased risk of accidents from such behaviors. MARTA now plans to stress the safety message to encourage drivers and operators to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel while driving.

· Recent footage revealed a MARTA bus driver reading a magazine while stopped at a red light.

· Another photograph showed yet another bus driver apparently eating lunch while balancing his fork and bowl precariously on his lap while at the wheel.

· In June, a rider on a MARTA train caught footage on his cell phone of an operator texting while on the job.

All three incidents of distracted driving are being investigated, and MARTA plans to do more to drill home the safety message to its employees. MARTA Deputy General Manager Dwight Ferrell told the AJC that although the agency, which is in dire financial trouble, has cut back on services, this has had little effect on employee work hours and break times. There is no reason why a driver would need to take a lunch break behind the wheel, he says, and there is absolutely no reason why operators should be texting or reading magazines while operating buses and trains.

Texting by train operators was at the center of the tragic Metrolink train accident in California last year that killed 25 people. Texting by bus drivers and truckers was also one of the issues that were spotlighted at the recent Distracted Driving Summit in Washington. During the summit, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the Obama Administration will seek a ban on texting by bus drivers and truckers, and will place restrictions on the use of cell phones by mass transit employees, including rail operators, bus drivers and truckers. The federal administration has said that it will also seek additional restrictions on cell phone use by school bus drivers. This will include disqualifying school bus drivers convicted of texting while driving from retaining their commercial driving licenses.

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