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TriMet warns drivers about distracted driving, lists complaints

Responding to a photo on Twitter that appears to show a TriMet bus driver looking down at a cell phone, the regional transit agency has a memo to all drivers that distracted driving is not allowed.

"When we see a photo tweeted that appears to show a TriMet bus operator texting, it’s a major concern for us. At TriMet we take providing safe transit service very seriously. It’s our core value. Using a phone or other personal electronic device while driving violates Oregon law and TriMet policy, and it is dangerous," says TriMet spokeswoman Roberta Alstadt.

TriMet also released statistics about complaints received about distracted drivers in 2012 and 2013. Few were disciplined because there was little proof of the violations.

In 2012, TriMet received 37 complaints claiming operators were using electronic devices while operating a vehicle. All the complaints involved bus operators. Two could be verified and resulted in discipline.

The complaints broke down as follows: texting, 20; talking on a cell phone, 13; listening to a musical device, 2; presence of a Bluetooth or ear bud, 1; using a camera, 1.

Through July 2013, TriMet received 25 complaints. One concerned a MAX operator and 24 concerned bus operators. Four of the complaints were verified and resulted in discipline.

The complaints broke down as follows: texting, 10; talking on a cell phone, 9; presence of a Bluetooth or ear bud, 5; listening to a musical device, 1.

"With the recent devastating rail collision in Spain,where the rail operator was on his phone at the time of the incident, TriMet Executive Director of Operations Shelly Lomax, in a memo that went out to all 1,250 bus and rail operators, reinforced the concerns of distracted driving and stressed those operators must put rider safety first," Alstadt said.

In the memo, Lomax said, “Personal electronic devices, in particular cellular phones, have become a common part of everyday life, and are key distractions that every professional operator must not use when operating a motor vehicle. While the majority of operators regularly comply, from time to time we still receive reports of individuals violating the policy. Please, always place safety first and keep all personal cellular phones and personal electronic devices turned off and stowed while operating district vehicles.”