Distracted driving

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When the focus of a bus or rail operator is taken away from their surroundings, risk of collision and injury increases. Distracted driving is a serious safety concern and many agencies have taken steps to discourage these behaviors. Some states have enacted distracted driving laws with penalties for driving while using cell phones, for example [1]. In California, all bus drivers are legally prohibited from any cell phone use in the performance of their duties.


Operator distractions

Agencies should discourage (and many outright ban) the use of any electronic device such as cell phones or music players during the course of work. Strategies may range from requiring devices to be used only if the vehicle is parked, to outright bans except on scheduled breaks. Distractions can also include food and drink. Energy is important for operators to stay focused on long shifts, but consumption of food can be distracting while operating. Operators should limit food and drink to layovers and breaks.

An example of risk operators may not consider is capped water bottles: operators may take a drink while waiting at a stop light and subsequently drop the cap as the light turns green. If the operator is concerned about the cap rolling away, or perhaps under a pedal, they may take their eyes off the road to pick it up. This increases risk of collision. Operators may use water bottles without screw-on caps, but better is to discourage these habits except when parked.

  • Agency information while driving
  • Other passengers

Assist with better training and guidance, awareness of the risk of distraction.

Agency distractions

Further Reading

American Public Transit Association (APTA). "Reducing Driver-Controlled Distractions While Operating a Vehicle on Agency Time". 2009. This document focuses on distractions that are within the ability of an operator to mitigate.

APTA. "Reducing Agency-Controlled Distractions While Operating a Vehicle on Agency Time". 2009. This document focuses on distractions within control of management.

Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP). "TCRP Synthesis 108: Transit Bus Operator Distraction Policies". 2013. This synthesis reviews practices by surveyed agencies as well as three case studies.


  1. USDOT. http://www.distraction.gov/ Accessed 13:30 on 26 January 2014