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5/15/2009
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MBTA Drivers Cell Phone Use Ban Protested By Union

The action follows a driver's admission that he was texting when the trolley he was driving went through a red light and crashed into another trolley, injuring 50.

Battle lines are hardening over the use of cell phones by subway, bus, and trolley operators in Massachusetts.

The state's transit authority said it will ban the use of handsets by operators starting Monday. Opposing the ban is the union representing the driver who was texting on a cell phone when his trolley crashed into another last weekend, injuring 50.

Daniel Grabauskas, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, said he was "outraged" by the incident and ordered stiff penalties for drivers texting and using their cell phones while operating vehicles.

Following the accident, James Aloisi with the transit authority said: "I predict what we do here in Massachusetts today will soon become a national model." The ban would seek dismissal of any vehicle driver using a handset while driving and suspension if carrying a device on duty.

But the Boston Carmen's Union, complaining it hadn't seen final provisions of the ban, filed a grievance after the MBTA fired Aiden Quinn, the trolley driver. Union representatives have complained that the ban and some of its penalties are too harsh. A union representative reportedly said mandatory days off costing thousands of dollars called for in the ban would be too harsh a penalty for drivers.

The driver has admitted to texting when the trolley he was driving went through a red light and crashed into another trolley. The collision knocked both vehicles off their tracks. None of the passengers was seriously injured, although several were bloodied and a few were treated at nearby medical centers, as was the driver.

Massachusetts has no law banning the use of texting or cell phones by drivers, although a proposed law on the issue is before state legislators. Some 12 states have laws banning texting while driving.

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