Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) warns, it can happen in an instant; just checking e-mail, sending one text or turning up the music can take a driver's attention from their surroundings and put them in a potentially dangerous situation, especially when at a bus stop, train station or transportation center.
“More often we are seeing people who are so ‘in tune’ with their electronic devices that they have no idea where they are going,” said SEPTA General Manager Joseph Casey. “They are stepping out in front of buses and off of platforms into the track area. It’s frightening.”
To remind the public of the dangers of being too connected to their smartphones, tablets and other handheld devices, SEPTA made distracted commuting the focus of its second annual “Make the Safe Choice” Safety Awareness Day on May 21. During the morning and afternoon rush hours, 500 SEPTA employees and City Year corps members distributed educational materials and answered safety questions at 150 SEPTA rail, trolley and bus stations, loops and transportation centers throughout the SEPTA’s five-county service area. Safety messages were also displayed in stations and vehicles.
“Over the past year, we have responded to a few track falls each month,” said Scott Sauer, SEPTA’s director of system safety. “That is especially troubling on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines, where not only is the drop from the platform to the track about four feet, there is an electrified third rail. In many cases, our trains are just minutes from entering the stations where the falls had just occurred.”
Surveillance video often shows people (some impaired or under the influence, others talking or texting on their phones or otherwise distracted) walking past the yellow warning strip and landing into the track area.
“These incidents are easily preventable,” said Sauer. “If you must use a phone or other device at a station or bus stop, stand away from the edge of the platform or curb. When you are waiting for the train, stand behind the yellow line. Looking down the platform does not make the train come faster. You can still stand behind the line and see and hear the train coming.”
SEPTA’s System Safety Department also makes Operation Lifesaver rail safety presentations to students from kindergarten through high school and to a wide variety of audiences, such as hearing and visually impaired adults, driver’s education students, emergency responders and professional drivers. SEPTA offers the presentation, which are aimed at reducing the number of pedestrian and driver injuries and fatalities around railroad tracks by highlighting risky behaviors, free of charge to school and community groups.