In the wake of a deadly bus accident that killed 16 passengers in 2008, the California Public Utilities Commission has ruled that two bus operator companies, Muni and BART will have to install security cameras within their buses. This action, which must be taken within the next three years, serves to prevent bus drivers from using cellphones while driving.

The recent crackdown on distracted driving among commercial drivers is in response to multiple fatal public transit accidents that authorities believe could have been prevented with more strict requirements on the drivers.

Cameras will be installed in the conductor booths of each train, and monitor every action that operators take while performing their job. Currently, both Muni and BART have policies against cellphone use in transit drivers, but authorities fear that such policies are not working.

Muni has also argued that passengers can clearly see the actions of their drivers while riding on the bus, and the company claims that they can rely on these passengers to report misconduct. Authorities are not convinced that this feedback is adequate to prevent further distracted driving fatalities. Muni has also referred to driver cellphone use as an “infrequent occurrence.”

As part of the CPUC mandate, any transit driver caught using a cellphone on the job will be subject to immediate and unconditional termination. As part of the agreement, 151 Muni vehicles will be outfitted with the new safety cameras, along with a total of 289 BART trains.

Both the 2008 light-rail bus accident in San Francisco and another California train accident that same year, which killed 25 passengers, were attributed to cellphone use by distracted bus drivers.

Source: San Francisco Examiner “Operator surveillance ordered by state will cost BART, Muni,” Will Reisman, Oct. 9, 2011