L.A. Train Crash Raises Questions About Enterprise Text Messaging Policies

By  Susan Nunziata — September 16, 2008

The deadly September 2008 train crash in Los Angeles puts a sobering perspective on a little-discussed and potentially lethal practice that many of us are guilty of: text messaging or emailing while operating a moving vehicle.

The engineer operating a commuter train on L.A.'s Metrolink rail service may have been text-messaging in the moments prior to his train's collision with an oncoming freight train. The accident reportedly claimed 26 lives and injured 138 people.

Reuters reports that the engineer may have been corresponding via text message with teenage train enthusiasts just prior to the accident..

According to The L.A. Times, warning signals were working at the time of the crash. The engineer's cellphone records have been subpoenaed from Verizon Wireless.

The fact is that while mobile technology has facilitated huge productivity gains, it's also enabled us to function in an always-on, 24/7 lifestyle that, quite frankly, sometimes causes us to throw common sense out the window.

Much has been made of laws in many states that ban the use of cellphones while driving. But what of the dangers of texting behind the wheel? According to the Associated Press, California is seeking a ban on cell phone use by train operators.

Yet, mobile enterprises have put mobile data devices in the hands of countless employees who are hurtling around the freeways in potentially deadly weapons of their own.

I'm a firm believer in personal accountability, but this case leads me to ponder what, if any, responsibility our employers have in this equation.

While enterprises put massive effort and money into creating security policies that protect their data, how many organizations have  -- and enforce -- policies relating to the use of text messaging and email by employees while driving?

Indeed, in many enterprises the demands of the job likely create an environment in which such communication is tacitly encouraged.

Does your enterprise have a policy regarding texting while driving? We asked readers to share their thoughts on the topic in an informal poll. Editor's Note: This poll is now closed. See the results.

Alternately, you can email your comments to me at Editor@MobileEnterpriseMag.com, please put the word TEXT in the subject line.


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